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Salk News

Rewiring tumor mitochondria enhances the immune system’s ability to recognize and fight cancer

LA JOLLA—Immunotherapy, which uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, is an effective treatment option, yet many patients do not respond to it. Thus, cancer researchers are seeking new ways to optimize immunotherapy so that it is more effective for more people. Now, Salk Institute scientists have found that manipulating an early step in energy production in mitochondria—the cell’s powerhouses—reduces melanoma tumor growth and enhances the immune response in mice.

Reducing stress on T cells makes them better cancer fighters

LA JOLLA—Even for killer T cells—specialized immune cells—seeking and destroying cancer cells around the clock can be exhausting. If scientists can understand why killer T cells become exhausted, then they can create more resilient cancer-killing cells.

“Super-enhancer” super-charges pancreatic tumor growth

LA JOLLA—Pancreatic cancers are among the most aggressive, deadly tumor types and, for years, researchers have struggled to develop effective drugs against the tumors. Now, Salk researchers have identified a new set of molecules that fuel the growth of tumors in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common type of pancreatic cancer.

Thank you to our sponsors for a spectacular 27th Symphony at Salk

A full audience of sponsors and community members was entertained by the sensational sounds of the San Diego Symphony, led by conductor Sean O’Loughlin, together with special guest Jennifer Hudson on Saturday, August 19, at the 27th annual Symphony at Salk.

Salk physician-scientist Jesse Dixon named Rita Allen Foundation Award Scholar

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute physician-scientist Jesse Dixon has been named a Rita Allen Foundation Award Scholar, a distinction given to biomedical scientists whose research holds exceptional promise for revealing new pathways to advance human health.

High-fat diets alter gut bacteria, boosting colorectal cancer risk in mice

LA JOLLA—The prevalence of colorectal cancer in people under the age of 50 has risen in recent decades. One suspected reason: the increasing rate of obesity and high-fat diets. Now, researchers at the Salk Institute and UC San Diego have discovered how high-fat diets can change gut bacteria and alter digestive molecules called bile acids that are modified by those bacteria, predisposing mice to colorectal cancer.

Using the body’s “invisible scalpel” to remove brain cancer

LA JOLLA—Glioblastoma, the most common and deadly form of brain cancer, grows rapidly to invade and destroy healthy brain tissue. The tumor sends out cancerous tendrils into the brain that make surgical tumor removal extremely difficult or impossible.

Structural biologist Agnieszka Kendrick joins Salk faculty to study cellular transport

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute welcomes Assistant Professor Agnieszka Kendrick, a structural biologist who studies how cells recognize and transport cargo within the cell.

Why we lose fat and muscle during infection

LA JOLLA—Although infections can present with many different symptoms, one common symptom is the loss of fat and muscle, a process called wasting. Salk scientists wanted to know whether wasting was beneficial in fighting infections.

Revealing HIV drug-resistance mechanisms through protein structures

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute researchers, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, have discovered the molecular mechanisms by which the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) becomes resistant to Dolutegravir, one of the most effective, clinically used antiviral drugs for treating HIV.

Salk Institute mourns the loss of former Board trustee, longtime supporter Margaret Faye Wilson

Margaret Faye Wilson, a leader in the banking and retail industries, died on July 10. She served as a Trustee on Salk’s Board from 2010 to 2019 and was a generous donor of the Institute over the years, including supporting the Institute’s premier annual event, Symphony at Salk.

27th Annual Symphony at Salk to feature GRAMMY® Award-winner Jennifer Hudson

LA JOLLA—On Saturday, August 19, the Salk Institute will celebrate 27 years of Symphony at Salk, its premier annual fundraiser and concert under the stars, with the breathtaking sounds of the San Diego Symphony and guest performer Jennifer Hudson, a two-time GRAMMY Award-winning recording artist, Academy Award-winning actress, and Tony and Emmy Award-winning producer.

Preying on hungry, anxious worms

LA JOLLA—The life of the tiny worm called Caenorhabditis elegans consists mostly of looking for food, eating food, and laying eggs. So, when any of these behaviors are disrupted, there’s cause for concern. In a new study, Salk Institute scientists discovered that the “feel good” brain chemical dopamine regulates anxious worm behavior in the presence of nipping predators.

All the immunity, none of the symptoms

LA JOLLA—Worldwide, more than a million deaths occur each year due to diarrheal diseases that lead to dehydration and malnutrition. Yet, no vaccine exists to fight or prevent these diseases, which are caused by bacteria like certain strains of E. coli. Instead, people with bacterial infections must rely on the body taking one of two defense strategies: kill the intruders or impair the intruders but keep them around. If the body chooses to impair the bacteria, then the disease can occur without the diarrhea, but the infection can still be transmitted—a process called asymptomatic carriage.

Neurobiologist Daniel Bayless joins Salk to study sex hormones and social behaviors in mice

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute welcomes Assistant Professor Daniel Bayless, a neurobiologist who studies the influence of sex hormones on social interaction and behavior in mice. Bayless joins Salk’s world-renowned neuroscience faculty—a collaborative team working to uncover how our brains work so we can build resilience in the face of stress, aging, and disease.

Mapping the development of infection-fighting immune cells

LA JOLLA—The immune system protects the body from invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, or tumors, with its intricate network of proteins, cells, and organs. Specialized immune cells, called cytotoxic T cells, can develop into short-lived effector cells that kill infected or cancerous cells within our bodies. A small portion of those effector cells remain after an infection and become longer-lived memory cells, which “remember” infections and respond when infections reappear. But little was known about what influences cytotoxic T cells to transform into these effector and memory T cell subtypes.

Seeing the insides of plants in 3D

LA JOLLA—The cellular life inside a plant is as vibrant as the blossom. In each plant tissue—from root tip to leaf tip—there are hundreds of cell types that relay information about functional needs and environmental changes. Now, a new technology developed by Salk scientists can capture this internal plant world at an unprecedented resolution, opening the door for understanding how plants respond to a changing climate and leading to more resilient crops.

Salk Institute mourns the loss of Françoise Gilot

LA JOLLA—Françoise Gilot, artist, best-selling author, and wife of the late Salk Institute founder and vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, died on June 6 at a hospital in Manhattan at the age of 101.

A new model for understanding human brain immune cells and neurological disorders

LA JOLLA—Situated at the intersection of the human immune system and the brain are microglia, specialized brain immune cells that play a crucial role in development and disease. Although the importance of microglia is undisputed, modeling and studying them has remained a difficult task.

How aggression-promoting brain peptide works in fruit flies

LA JOLLA—In addition to communicating with neurotransmitters, the brain also uses small proteins called neuropeptides. Neuropeptides send signals between neurons, working similarly to neurotransmitters but with key differences like a greater size and an ability to travel far away from the neuron that produces them. Though their importance is widely recognized, the way neuropeptides move around the brain and influence neurons has remained poorly understood—until now.