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Salk Institute Professor Edward Callaway elected to National Academy of Sciences

LA JOLLA—The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently announced that Salk Institute Professor Edward Callaway is one of 100 new members and 25 foreign associates to be elected to the NAS in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. The election is considered one of the highest honors accorded to a U.S. scientist. Callaway’s recognition brings the number of Salk faculty elected to the NAS to 16.


Editing of RNA may play a role in chloroplast-to-nucleus communication

LA JOLLA—What will a three-degree-warmer world look like? How will plants fare in more extreme weather conditions? When experiencing stress or damage from various sources, plants use chloroplast-to-nucleus communication to regulate gene expression and help them cope.


Message from Salk President Rusty Gage

As you may have seen, this week the Salk Institute featured prominently in the international spotlight, with Professor Joanne Chory and a talented team of Salk scientists receiving a $35 million award from TED Audacious, a collaborative platform founded to identify “jaw-dropping ideas” and “encourage the world’s greatest change-agents to dream bigger.” In this case, the “jaw-dropping” idea is Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative, an innovative approach to combatting climate change.


New study targets Achilles’ heel of pancreatic cancer, with promising results

LA JOLLA—Advanced pancreatic cancer is often symptomless, leading to late diagnosis only after metastases have spread throughout the body. Additionally, tumor cells are encased in a “protective shield,” a microenvironment conferring resistance to many cancer treatment drugs. Now, Salk Institute researchers, along with an international team of collaborators, have uncovered the role of a signaling protein that may be the Achilles’ heel of pancreatic cancer.


Salk promotes three leading scientists in the fields of infectious disease, neurobiology and biological networks

LA JOLLA—Three Salk Institute faculty members have been promoted after the latest round of faculty reviews determined they are scientific leaders who have made original, innovative and notable contributions to biological research.


Salk Institute initiative to receive more than $35 million to fight climate change

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute’s Harnessing Plants Initiative to combat climate change using plants, led by Professor Joanne Chory, executive director of the Harnessing Plants Initiative, will receive funding of more than $35 million from over 10 individuals and organizations through The Audacious Project, a highly competitive program housed at TED, the nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading. The collective commitments represent one of the largest gifts to a single project in the Institute’s history.


Salk professor Kay Tye honored with endowed chair

LA JOLLA—Salk Professor Kay Tye has been recognized for her contributions and dedication to advancing science through research by being named to the Wylie Vale Chair.


Salk mourns the passing of Nobel Laureate and Salk Distinguished Professor Emeritus Sydney Brenner

LA JOLLA—Nobel Laureate and Salk Distinguished Professor Emeritus Sydney Brenner passed away on April 5, 2019, in Singapore at the age of 92. Over the course of six decades, Brenner shaped the modern understanding of the genetic code.


New role for a driver of metastatic cancers

LA JOLLA—Metastatic ovarian, prostate and breast cancers are notoriously difficult to treat and often deadly. Now, Salk Institute researchers have revealed a new role for the CDK12 protein. The findings were published in the print version of Genes & Development on April 1, 2019.


When neurons are out of shape, antidepressants may not work

LA JOLLA—Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed medication for major depressive disorder (MDD), yet scientists still do not understand why the treatment does not work in nearly thirty percent of patients with MDD. Now, Salk Institute researchers have discovered differences in growth patterns of neurons of SSRI-resistant patients. The work, published in Molecular Psychiatry on March 22, 2019, has implications for depression as well as other psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia that likely also involve abnormalities of the serotonin system in the brain.


Like mountaineers, nerves need expert guidance to find their way

LA JOLLA—(March 22, 2019) Similar to the dozens of Sherpas that guide hikers up treacherous Himalayan mountains to reach a summit, the nervous system relies on elaborate timing and location of guidance cues for neuronal axons—threadlike projections—to successfully reach their destinations in the body. Now, Salk Institute researchers discover how neurons navigate a tricky cellular environment by listening for directions, while simultaneously filtering out inappropriate instructions to avoid getting lost. The findings appeared in Neuron on March 19, 2019.


How attention helps the brain perceive an object

LA JOLLA—It’s easy to miss something you’re not looking for. In a famous example, people were asked to closely observe two groups of people—one group clad in black, the other in white—pass a ball among themselves. Viewers were asked to count the number of times the ball passed from black to white. Remarkably, most observers did not notice a man in a gorilla suit, walking among the players. This ability of the brain to ignore extraneous visual information is critical to how we work and function, but the processes governing perception and attention are not fully understood. Scientists have long theorized that attention to a particular object can alter perception by amplifying certain neuronal activity and suppressing the activity of other neurons (brain “noise”).


Guardians of the synapse: scientists identify a new role for nerve-supporting cells

LA JOLLA—Salk researchers have found, for the first time, that a blood-clotting protein can, unexpectedly, degrade nerves—and how nerve-supporting glial cells, including Schwann cells, provide protection. The findings, published March 14, 2019, in the journal PLOS Genetics, show that Schwann cells protect nerves by blocking this blood-clotting protein as well as other potentially destructive enzymes released by muscle cells. The work could have implications for diseases as diverse as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease or schizophrenia.


Technology and business giants David Dolby and Mark Knickrehm join Salk’s Board

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute Board of Trustees is pleased to announce its two newest members, David Dolby and Mark Knickrehm, both innovative leaders in business and technology.


Salk scientists uncover how high-fat diets drive colorectal cancer growth

LA JOLLA—As cancer death rates drop overall, doctors have noted a frightening anomaly: deaths from colorectal cancer in people under 55 appear to be creeping up. According to the American Cancer Society, deaths in this younger group increased by 1 percent between 2007 and 2016.


Native California medicinal plant may hold promise for treating Alzheimer’s

LA JOLLA—The medicinal powers of aspirin, digitalis, and the anti-malarial artemisinin all come from plants. A Salk Institute discovery of a potent neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory chemical in a native California shrub may lead to a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease based on a compound found in nature. The research appears in the February 2019 issue of the journal Redox Biology.


Putting the brakes on aging

LA JOLLA—Aging is a leading risk factor for a number of debilitating conditions, including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, to name a few. This makes the need for anti-aging therapies all the more urgent. Now, Salk Institute researchers have developed a new gene therapy to help decelerate the aging process.


Uncovering the evolution of the brain

LA JOLLA—What makes us human, and where does this mysterious property of “humanness” come from? Humans are genetically similar to chimpanzees and bonobos, yet there exist obvious behavioral and cognitive differences. Now, researchers from the Salk Institute, in collaboration with researchers from the anthropology department at UC San Diego, have developed a strategy to more easily study the early development of human neurons compared with the neurons of nonhuman primates. The study, which appeared in eLife on February 7, 2019, offers scientists a novel tool for fundamental brain research.


When neurons get the blues: hyperactive brain cells may be to blame when antidepressants don’t work

LA JOLLA—The most commonly prescribed antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), lift the fog of depression for many people. But for around a third of people with major depressive disorder, SSRIs don’t make much of a difference. Now, researchers from the Salk Institute have pinned down a possible reason why—the neurons in at least some of these patients’ brains may become hyperactive in the presence of the drugs. The study appeared in Molecular Psychiatry on January 30, 2019.


Salk promotes Nicola Allen and Julie Law to associate professor

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has promoted Nicola Allen and Julie Law to the rank of associate professor for their notable contributions to neurobiology and plant biology, respectively. The promotions were based on recommendations by Salk faculty and nonresident fellows, and approved by President Rusty Gage and the Institute’s Board of Trustees.