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Salk News


Researchers report new methods to identify Alzheimer’s drug candidates that have anti-aging properties

LA JOLLA—Old age is the greatest risk factor for many diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and cancer. Geroprotectors are a recently identified class of anti-aging compounds. New Salk research has now identified a unique subclass of these compounds, dubbed geroneuroprotectors (GNPs), which are AD drug candidates and slow the aging process in mice.


Salk awarded $19.2 million by the American Heart Association-Allen Initiative to study Alzheimer’s and aging in the brain

LA JOLLA—A team of Salk Institute researchers led by President Rusty Gage has been awarded $19.2 million over eight years by the American Heart Association-Allen Initiative in Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment to investigate mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease and aging-related cognitive decline and uncover new therapies. This bold venture will comprehensively analyze interactions between five areas key to brain health: proteins, genes, metabolism, inflammation and epigenetics.


Genetic “whodunnit” for cancer gene solved

LA JOLLA—Long thought to suppress cancer by slowing cellular metabolism, the protein complex AMPK also seemed to help some tumors grow, confounding researchers. Now, Salk Institute researchers have solved the long-standing mystery around why AMPK can both hinder and help cancer.


Clodagh O’Shea receives Allen Distinguished Investigator award to study genome

LA JOLLA—Clodagh O’Shea, a professor in Salk’s Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Faculty Scholar, has been selected as a recipient of The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group’s Allen Distinguished Investigator (ADI) program. She will be awarded $1.5 million over three years to conduct research into how DNA and its associated proteins (known collectively as chromatin) are packaged in the nucleus of cells. The work has implications for better understanding not only a range of diseases but also the fundamentals of human biology.


Salk mourns the passing of immunology titan Melvin Cohn, PhD, founding fellow of the Salk Institute and a pioneer in the field of gene regulation

LA JOLLA—Salk Professor Melvin Cohn, titan of immune system biology and a pioneering researcher in the field of gene regulation, passed away on October 23, 2018, in San Diego, California, at the age of 96.


Salk scientists advance ultrasound technology for neurological therapy

LA JOLLA—The emerging technology of sonogenetics—a technique where cells are controlled by sound—offers the potential to one day replace pharmaceutical drugs or invasive surgical treatments for neurological conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease or posttraumatic stress disorder.


Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte one of TIME magazine’s “50 Most Influential People in Health Care” for 2018

LA JOLLA—Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory, has been named one of TIME magazine’s 50 most influential people in healthcare for his scientific innovations in addressing the shortage of human organs for transplant. The list, which is curated by TIME’s health reporters and editors, recognizes people who changed the state of healthcare in America this year, and bear watching for what they do next.


Brain cells called astrocytes have unexpected role in brain “plasticity”

LA JOLLA—When we’re born, our brains have a great deal of flexibility. Having this flexibility to grow and change gives the immature brain the ability to adapt to new experiences and organize its interconnecting web of neural circuits. As we age, this quality, called "plasticity," lessens.


Salk awarded Keeping It Modern grant by Getty Foundation

LA JOLLA—As part of its Keeping It Modern initiative, the Getty Foundation has awarded the Salk Institute a $200,000 grant to support the conservation of Salk’s celebrated concrete facades. The grant project will take place over the next five years. The announcement is part of more than $1.7 million in architectural conservation grants announced by the foundation in 2018 for 11 significant 20th century buildings.


Dannielle Engle, rising star in pancreatic cancer research, to join Salk Institute

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute is honored to welcome Dannielle Engle back to Salk as an assistant professor in the Salk Cancer Center. She is currently a senior fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, where she focuses on the early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer. Engle conducted research in the lab of Salk Professor Geoffrey Wahl for six years as part of her doctoral program at UC San Diego.


Salk’s Janelle Ayres receives NIH Pioneer Award for novel approaches to infectious disease

LA JOLLA—Associate Professor Janelle Ayres has been awarded a 2018 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award by the National Institutes of Health for her innovative research into host-pathogen interactions that promote the health of the host.


$1.6 Million CIRM grant supports potential diabetes treatment

LA JOLLA—Approximately 1.25 million Americans are living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), with an additional 40,000 people newly diagnosed every year. T1D is an autoimmune disease that destroys insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells. Insulin is a hormone that allows sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. Without insulin, blood sugar accumulates, causing toxic side effects. Despite active research, T1D has no cure. While treatments, including daily insulin injections, are available, managing the disease remains challenging, and poorly controlled T1D can lead to blindness, organ failure and other health issues.


Salk’s Tatyana Sharpee elected 2018 Fellow of American Physical Society

LA JOLLA—Salk Associate Professor Tatyana Sharpee, a member of the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory, has been elected a 2018 Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) for her outstanding contribution to physics. In particular, she is granted this honor for “advancing our understanding of how neurons represent sensory signals and make decisions by pioneering new methods for analyzing neural responses to natural stimuli and uncovered organizing principles for closed loop behaviors,” according to the organization.


Decoding the structure of an RNA-based CRISPR system

LA JOLLA—Over the past several years, CRISPR-Cas9 has moved beyond the lab bench and into the public zeitgeist. This gene-editing tool holds promise for correcting defects inside individual cells and potentially healing or preventing many human ailments. But the Cas9 system alters DNA, not RNA, and some experts believe that being able to modify RNA ultimately may prove just as useful.


Researchers train robotic gliders to soar

LA JOLLA—The words “fly like an eagle” are famously part of a song, but they may also be words that make some scientists scratch their heads. Especially when it comes to soaring birds like eagles, falcons and hawks, who seem to ascend to great heights over hills, canyons and mountain tops with ease. Scientists realize that upward currents of warm air assist the birds in their flight, but they don’t know how the birds find and navigate these thermal plumes.


Tweaking cells’ gatekeepers could lead to new way to fight cancer

LA JOLLA—If the cell nucleus is like a bank for DNA, nuclear pores are the security doors around its perimeter. Yet more security doors aren’t necessarily better: some cancer cells contain a dramatic excess of nuclear pores.


Research in yeast leads to serendipitous finding about a central nervous system disorder

LA JOLLA—Studying the fundamental aspects of biology can sometimes lead to unexpected findings that directly relate to human disease. In one of the latest examples of scientific serendipity, researchers from the Salk Institute found that an important quality control mechanism in baker’s yeast is closely connected to hypomyelinating leukodystrophy, a debilitating disease found in children.


New method of pinpointing cancer mutations could lead to more targeted treatments

LA JOLLA—Cancer cells often have mutations in their DNA that can give scientists clues about how the cancer started or which treatment may be most effective. Finding these mutations can be difficult, but a new method may offer more complete, comprehensive results.


Electron microscopy provides new view of tiny virus with therapeutic potential

LA JOLLA—The imaging method called cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) allows researchers to visualize the shapes of biological molecules with an unprecedented level of detail. Now a team led by researchers from the Salk Institute and the University of Florida is reporting how they used cryo-EM to show the structure of a version of a virus called an AAV2, advancing the technique’s capabilities and the virus’ potential as a delivery vehicle for gene therapies.


The alchemy of healing: researchers turn open wounds into skin

LA JOLLA—Plastic surgery to treat large cutaneous ulcers, including those seen in people with severe burns, bedsores or chronic diseases such as diabetes, may someday be a thing of the past. Scientists at the Salk Institute have developed a technique to directly convert the cells in an open wound into new skin cells. The approach relies on reprogramming the cells to a stem-cell-like state and could be useful for healing skin damage, countering the effects of aging and helping us to better understand skin cancer.