LA JOLLA—During high stress situations such as making a goal in soccer, some athletes experience a rapid decline in performance under pressure, known as “choking.” Now, Salk Institute researchers have uncovered what might be behind the phenomenon: one-way signals from the brain’s emotion circuit to the movement circuit. The study, which was published online on September 6, 2019, in eLife, could lead to new strategies for treating disorders with disrupted movement, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression, along with aiding in recovery from spinal cord injuries or physical performance under pressure.
LA JOLLA—The brain’s prefrontal cortex, which gives us our ability to solve problems and plan ahead, contains billions of cells. But understanding the large diversity of cell types in this critical region, each with unique genetic and molecular properties, has been challenging.
LA JOLLA—Plants can do many amazing things. Among their talents, they can manufacture compounds that help them repel pests, attract pollinators, cure infections and protect themselves from excess temperatures, drought and other hazards in the environment.
LA JOLLA—Iron is essential for plant growth, but with heavy rainfall and poor aeration, many acidic soils become toxic with excess iron. In countries with dramatic flood seasons, such as in West Africa and tropical Asia, toxic iron levels can have dire consequences on the availability of staple foods, such as rice.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute announced today that The Kavli Foundation has committed $3 million to support ongoing neuroscience research at Salk as part of the joint UCSD-Salk Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind (KIBM). The gift—matched by an additional $3 million from Salk—will add $6 million to the KIBM Endowment, to enable faculty in neuroscience to work on the most impactful questions in the field. The Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind was established through a $15.5 million endowment commitment from The Kavli Foundation, shared between Salk and UC San Diego.
LA JOLLA—Your immune system comes ready for battle against bacteria, viruses, fungi and even cancer. But in cases of autoimmune disease, the immune system’s superpowers turn it into a supervillain. Now, Salk Institute scientists have discovered a way to stop certain immune system cells from mistakenly attacking the body. Their findings, published the week of August 26, 2019, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest a new way to target Th17 helper T cells, a type of immune cell that produces interleukin 17, a molecule known to be at the root of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. Previous efforts targeting Th17 helper T cells have had limited success.
LA JOLLA—The ability to edit genes in living organisms offers the opportunity to treat a plethora of inherited diseases. However, many types of gene-editing tools are unable to target critical areas of DNA, and creating such a technology has been difficult as living tissue contains diverse types of cells.
LA JOLLA—Star-shaped cells called astrocytes help the brain establish long-lasting memories, Salk researchers have discovered. The new work adds to a growing body of evidence that astrocytes, long considered to be merely supportive cells in the brain, may have more of a leading role. The study, published in the journal GLIA on July 26, 2019, could inform therapies for disorders in which long-term memory is impaired, such as traumatic brain injury or dementia.
LA JOLLA—Light touch plays a critical role in everyday tasks, such as picking up a glass or playing a musical instrument. The sensation is also an essential part of the body’s protective defense system, alerting us to objects in our environment that could cause us to fall or injure ourselves. In addition, it is part of the detection system that has evolved to protect us from biting insects, such as those that cause malaria and Lyme disease, by eliciting a feeling of an itch when an insect lands on your skin.
LA JOLLA–Joseph Ecker, professor and director of Salk’s Genomic Analysis Laboratory and Margarita Behrens, a research professor in Salk’s Computational Neurobiology Laboratory, will receive over $1.6 million over three years as part of a Seed Network Grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).
LA JOLLA—Neurodevelopmental disorders arising from rare genetic mutations can cause atypical cognitive function, intellectual disability, and developmental delays, yet it is unclear why and how this happens. Scientists suspected a mutation in a complex of proteins could be the culprit for a group of rare genetic disorders and, now, Salk Institute researchers have identified the molecular mechanism linking this mutation with abnormal nervous system development. The team’s findings, published in Molecular Cell on July 30, 2019, bring researchers one step closer to understanding neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Nicolaides-Baraitser syndrome and others.
LA JOLLA—The vast majority of deadly lung cancer cases (85 percent) are termed non-small-cell lung carcinomas (NSCLCs), which often contain a mutated gene called LKB1. Salk Institute researchers have now discovered precisely why inactive LKB1 results in cancer development. The surprising results, published in the online version of Cancer Discovery on July 26, 2019, highlight how LBK1 communicates with two enzymes that suppress inflammation in addition to cell growth, to block tumor growth. The findings could lead to new therapies for NSCLC, and you can see news coverage of the story here.
LA JOLLA—Around 85 percent of lung cancers are classified as non-small-cell lung cancers, or NSCLCs. Some patients with these cancers can be treated with targeted genetic therapies, and some benefit from immunotherapies—but the vast majority of NSCLC patients have no treatment options except for chemotherapy.
LA JOLLA—The world is filled with millions upon millions of distinct smells, but how mammals’ brains evolved to tell them apart is something of a mystery.
LA JOLLA—Hidden underground networks of plant roots snake through the earth foraging for nutrients and water, similar to a worm searching for food. Yet, the genetic and molecular mechanisms that govern which parts of the soil roots explore remain largely unknown. Now, Salk Institute researchers have discovered a gene that determines whether roots grow deep or shallow in the soil.
La Jolla — The Salk Institute will celebrate 24 years of Symphony at Salk, its annual concert under the stars, with the sounds of Tony Award-winner Laura Benanti and the acclaimed San Diego Symphony on Saturday, August 24.
LA JOLLA—In the nucleus of every living cell, long strands of DNA are tightly folded into compact chromosomes. Now, thanks to a new computational approach developed at the Salk Institute, researchers can use the architecture of these chromosome folds to differentiate between types of cells. The information about each cell’s chromosome structure will give scientists a better understanding of how interactions between different regions of DNA play a role in health and disease. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of July 8, 2019.
LA JOLLA—There are hundreds of thousands of distinct colors and shapes that a person can distinguish visually, but how does the brain process all of this information? Scientists previously believed that the visual system initially encodes shape and color with different sets of neurons and then combines them much later. But a new study from Salk researchers, published in Science on June 27, 2019, shows that there are neurons that respond selectively to particular combinations of color and shape.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute announced that Helmsley-Salk Fellow Patrick Hsu has been named to MIT Technology Review’s prestigious annual list of Innovators Under 35. Every year, the media company recognizes a list of exceptionally talented technologists whose work has great potential to transform the world.