LA JOLLA—The spinal cord acts as a messenger, carrying signals between the brain and body to regulate everything from breathing to movement. While the spinal cord is known to play an essential role in relaying pain signals, technology has limited scientists’ understanding of how this process occurs on a cellular level. Now, Salk scientists have created wearable microscopes to enable unprecedented insight into the signaling patterns that occur within the spinal cords of mice.
LA JOLLA—Cancer treatments have long been moving toward personalization—finding the right drugs that work for a patient’s unique tumor, based on specific genetic and molecular patterns. Many of these targeted therapies are highly effective, but aren’t available for all cancers, including non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) that have an LKB1 genetic mutation. A new study led by Salk Institute Professor Reuben Shaw and former postdoctoral fellow Lillian Eichner, now an assistant professor at Northwestern University, revealed FDA-approved trametinib and entinostat (which is currently in clinical trials) can be given in tandem to produce fewer and smaller tumors in mice with LKB1-mutated NSCLC.
LA JOLLA—The artificial intelligence (AI) language model ChatGPT has captured the world’s attention in recent months. This trained computer chatbot can generate text, answer questions, provide translations, and learn based on the user’s feedback. Large language models like ChatGPT may have many applications in science and business, but how much do these tools understand what we say to them and how do they decide what to say back?
LA JOLLA—PlantACT! Plants for Climate Action, a European initiative founded to unite plant science experts in the effort to mitigate climate change, will welcome Salk Professors Joanne Chory and Wolfgang Busch to an upcoming two-day event in New York City. The event, called Growing a Resilient Society and hosted by the University of Cologne New York Office and partners, will feature a free public panel discussion with Chory and an invite-only experts’ workshop research presentation by Busch.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has named Gerald Joyce as its next president, following an extensive, six-month search process. Having served as the Institute’s senior vice president and chief science officer since July, Joyce will succeed Rusty Gage, who will return to his lab full-time following a transformative leadership tenure that strengthened the Institute scientifically, culturally and organizationally.
LA JOLLA—Salk Professor Christian Metallo has been recognized for his outstanding contributions to advancing science by being named the next holder of the Daniel and Martina Lewis Chair, effective January 1, 2023. Professor Geoffrey Wahl previously held this chair position.
LA JOLLA—As we age, the end caps of our chromosomes, called telomeres, gradually shorten. Now, Salk scientists have discovered that when telomeres become very short, they communicate with mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouses. This communication triggers a complex set of signaling pathways and initiates an inflammatory response that destroys cells that could otherwise become cancerous.
LA JOLLA (January 31, 2023)— Salk Institute Professor John Reynolds has been named a 2022 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. Reynolds is among 506 new AAAS Fellows spanning 24 scientific disciplines who were nominated by their peers for their distinguished efforts to advance science.
LA JOLLA—Approximately half of people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes experience peripheral neuropathy—weakness, numbness, and pain, primarily in the hands and feet. The condition occurs when high levels of sugar circulating in the blood damage peripheral nerves. Now, working with mice, Salk Institute researchers have identified another factor contributing to diabetes-associated peripheral neuropathy: altered amino acid metabolism.
LA JOLLA—Salk Professor Ronald Evans and an interdisciplinary group of Institute researchers have been awarded a two-year, $1.5 million grant from the Sol Goldman Charitable Trust at the direction of cardiologist and Salk Trustee Benjamin Lewis. The award will fund a research project to explore connections between the gut, brain, and immune system in search of new therapies for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).
LA JOLLA—Young children sometimes believe that the moon is following them, or that they can reach out and touch it. It appears to be much closer than is proportional to its true distance. As we move about our daily lives, we tend to think that we navigate space in a linear way. But Salk scientists have discovered that time spent exploring an environment causes neural representations to grow in surprising ways.
LA JOLLA—Numerous studies have shown health benefits of time-restricted eating including increase in life span in laboratory studies, making practices like intermittent fasting a hot topic in the wellness industry. However, exactly how it affects the body on the molecular level, and how those changes interact across multiple organ systems, has not been well understood. Now, Salk scientists show in mice how time-restricted eating influences gene expression across more than 22 regions of the body and brain. Gene expression is the process through which genes are activated and respond to their environment by creating proteins.
LA JOLLA—Obesity and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, are extremely common in the United States. Tiny proteins called microproteins have long been overlooked in research, but new evidence demonstrates that they have an important role in metabolism. Salk scientists have discovered that both brown and white fat is filled with thousands of previously unknown microproteins, and show that one of these microproteins, called Gm8773, can increase appetite in mice.
LA JOLLA—A drug developed by Salk Institute researchers acts like a master reset switch in the intestines. The compound, called FexD, has previously been found to lower cholesterol, burn fat, and ward off colorectal cancer in mice. Now, the team reports in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on December 12, 2022, that FexD can also prevent and reverse intestinal inflammation in mouse models of inflammatory bowel disease.
LA JOLLA—Cancer, caused by abnormal overgrowth of cells, is the second-leading cause of death in the world. Researchers from the Salk Institute have zeroed in on specific mechanisms that activate oncogenes, which are altered genes that can cause normal cells to become cancer cells.
LA JOLLA—Despite decades of research, Alzheimer’s disease remains a debilitating and eventually fatal dementia with no effective treatment options. More than 95 percent of Alzheimer’s disease cases have no known origin. Now, scientists from the Salk Institute have found that neurons from people with Alzheimer’s disease show deterioration and undergo a late-life stress process called senescence. These neurons have a loss of functional activity, impaired metabolism, and increased brain inflammation.
LA JOLLA—Salk Professors Joseph Ecker, Ronald Evans, Rusty Gage, Christian Metallo, Satchidananda Panda, Reuben Shaw, and Kay Tye, along with Assistant Professor Jesse Dixon, have been named to the Highly Cited Researchers list by Clarivate. This year’s list includes 6,938 researchers from 69 countries and identifies researchers who demonstrate “significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers.” Ecker and Gage have been named to this list every year since 2014, when the regular annual rankings began. Joseph Nery, a research assistant II in the Ecker lab, was also included on the list.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has named Luzilda “Lucy” Arciniega director of Diversity Strategies & Implementation, as the Institute continues to expand its focus on efforts that support recruitment, retention, leadership, and cultural connectivity throughout its vibrant campus.
LA JOLLA—When neurons involved in movement—called motor neurons—form, they must build connections that reach from the brain, brainstem, or spinal cord all the way to the head, arms, or the tips of the toes. How neurons navigate these systems and “decide” where and how to grow has largely been a mystery.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute recently lost a dear friend and former Trustee when Georg Heinrich “Heini” Thyssen died on September 30, 2022.