LA JOLLA—In order for cancer to grow and spread, it has to evade detection by our immune cells, particularly specialized “killer” T cells. Salk researchers led by Professor Susan Kaech have found that the environment inside tumors (the tumor microenvironment) contains an abundance of oxidized fat molecules, which, when ingested by the killer T cells, suppresses their ability to kill cancer cells. In a vicious cycle, those T cells, in need of energy, increase the level of a cellular fat transporter, CD36, that unfortunately saturates them with even more oxidized fat and further curtails their anti-tumor functions.
LA JOLLA—Type 1 diabetes, which arises when the pancreas doesn’t create enough insulin to control levels of glucose in the blood, is a disease that currently has no cure and is difficult for most patients to manage. Scientists at the Salk Institute are developing a promising approach for treating it: using stem cells to create insulin-producing cells (called beta cells) that could replace nonfunctional pancreatic cells.
LA JOLLA—One of the many effects of aging is loss of muscle mass, which contributes to disability in older people. To counter this loss, scientists at the Salk Institute are studying ways to accelerate the regeneration of muscle tissue, using a combination of molecular compounds that are commonly used in stem-cell research.
LA JOLLA—Despite only accounting for about 1 percent of skin cancers, melanoma causes the majority of skin cancer-related deaths. While treatments for this serious disease do exist, these drugs can vary in effectiveness depending on the individual.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute welcomes bioengineer Christian Metallo, who will join the Salk faculty as a full professor in July 2021. He is currently an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of California San Diego.
LA JOLLA—Plants are unparalleled in their ability to capture CO2 from the air, but this benefit is temporary, as leftover crops release carbon back into the atmosphere, mostly through decomposition. Researchers have proposed a more permanent, and even useful, fate for this captured carbon by turning plants into a valuable industrial material called silicon carbide (SiC)—offering a strategy to turn an atmospheric greenhouse gas into an economically and industrially valuable material.
The Kavli Foundation champions scientific research through its Small Equipment Grant program that provides scientists with unconstrained opportunities to drive greater discovery. The funding will support Salk faculty and research professors working in neuroscience and related fields to purchase or build equipment needed to further their research, ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.
LA JOLLA—Scientists have known for a while that SARS-CoV-2’s distinctive “spike” proteins help the virus infect its host by latching on to healthy cells. Now, a major new study shows that the virus spike proteins (which behave very differently than those safely encoded by vaccines) also play a key role in the disease itself.
LA JOLLA—Despite the prevalence of Alzheimer’s, there are still no treatments, in part because it has been challenging to study how the disease develops. Now, scientists at the Salk Institute have uncovered new insights into what goes awry during Alzheimer’s by growing neurons that resemble—more accurately than ever before—brain cells in older patients. And like patients themselves, the afflicted neurons appear to lose their cellular identity.
LA JOLLA—Spinal cord nerve cells branching through the body resemble trees with limbs fanning out in every direction. But this image can also be used to tell the story of how these neurons, their jobs becoming more specialized over time, arose through developmental and evolutionary history. Salk researchers have, for the first time, traced the development of spinal cord neurons using genetic signatures and revealed how different subtypes of the cells may have evolved and ultimately function to regulate our body movements.
LA JOLLA—The San Diego Nathan Shock Center (SD-NSC) of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging, a consortium between the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Sanford Burnham Prebys (SBP) Medical Discovery Institute and the University of California San Diego, has announced the first class of pilot grant awardees at the center’s inaugural training workshop. Six recipients, each from a different institution, will receive up to $15,000 to pursue research that advances our understanding of how humans age, with the ultimate goal of extending the number of years of healthy, disease-free life (i.e., health span).
LA JOLLA—Salk Associate Professor Sreekanth Chalasani has won the 2021 National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) Gallagher Mentor Award. The announcement was made at the 2021 NPA Annual Conference, which took place April 15 and 16. Chalasani was one of eight finalists for the prestigious award.
LA JOLLA—The ability to grow the cells of one species within an organism of a different species offers scientists a powerful tool for research and medicine. It’s an approach that could advance our understanding of early human development, disease onset and progression and aging; provide innovative platforms for drug evaluation; and address the critical need for transplantable organs. Yet developing such capabilities has been a formidable challenge.
LA JOLLA—One of the characteristic hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the buildup of amyloid-beta plaques in the brain. Most therapies designed to treat AD target these plaques, but they’ve largely failed in clinical trials. New research by Salk scientists upends conventional views of the origin of one prevalent type of plaque, indicating a reason why treatments have been unsuccessful.
LA JOLLA—Salk Assistant Professor Dannielle Engle was selected as the first recipient of the Lustgarten Foundation-AACR Career Development Award for Pancreatic Cancer Research in Honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the late Supreme Court Justice and women’s rights pioneer.
LA JOLLA—When cells are stressed, chemical alarms go off, setting in motion a flurry of activity that protects the cell’s most important players. During the rush, a protein called Parkin hurries to protect the mitochondria, the power stations that generate energy for the cell. Now Salk researchers have discovered a direct link between a master sensor of cell stress and Parkin itself. The same pathway is also tied to type 2 diabetes and cancer, which could open a new avenue for treating all three diseases.
LA JOLLA—Neurons lack the ability to replicate their DNA, so they’re constantly working to repair damage to their genome. Now, a new study by Salk scientists finds that these repairs are not random, but instead focus on protecting certain genetic “hot spots” that appear to play a critical role in neural identity and function.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has appointed Uri Manor to the position of assistant research professor, a non-tenure faculty position, as part of its ongoing commitment to attract and retain top talent. Manor has been a Salk staff scientist and director of the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Core Facility since 2016. He will lead an independent research group and continue his work developing cutting-edge imaging techniques to illuminate biologically relevant targets.
LA JOLLA—Clinicians using a new viral screening test can not only diagnose COVID-19 in a matter of minutes with a portable, pocket-sized machine, but can also simultaneously test for other viruses—like influenza—that might be mistaken for the coronavirus. At the same time, they can sequence the virus, providing valuable information on the spread of COVID-19 mutations and variants. The new test, dubbed NIRVANA, was described online today by a multi-institution team of scientists in the journal Med.