LA JOLLA—Salk Institute scientists, together with researchers from Switzerland’s University of Basel and University Hospital Basel, discovered a protein called LHPP that acts as a molecular switch to turn off the uncontrolled growth of cells in liver cancer. The tumor suppressor, which could be useful as a biomarker to help diagnose and monitor treatment for liver cancer, could also be relevant for other cancer types. The work appeared in print in the journal Nature on March 29, 2018, and adds to the growing body of knowledge about cellular processes that either promote or prevent cancer.
LA JOLLA—Professor Tony Hunter, who holds an American Cancer Society Professorship at the Salk Institute, has received the 2018 Pezcoller–AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research, one of the most prestigious honors in the field of cancer research. The prize recognizes a scientist of international renown who has made a major scientific discovery in basic cancer research or who has made significant contributions to translational cancer research.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has promoted structural biologist Dmitry Lyumkis to the rank of assistant professor for his significant early contributions to the up-and-coming field of electron microscopy known as cryo-EM. The promotion was based on recommendations by Salk faculty and nonresident fellows, and approved by Interim President Rusty Gage and the Institute’s Board of Trustees.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has promoted Xin Jin, a member of the Institute’s world-renowned neuroscience faculty, to the rank of associate professor, as his research continues to provide significant insights into diseases such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. The promotion was based on recommendations by Salk faculty and nonresident fellows, and approved by Interim President Rusty Gage and the Institute’s Board of Trustees.
LA JOLLA—In the perennial question of nature versus nurture, a new study suggests an intriguing connection between the two. Salk Institute scientists report in the journal Science that the type of mothering a female mouse provides her pups actually changes their DNA. The work lends support to studies about how childhood environments affect brain development in humans and could provide insights into neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.
LA JOLLA—Ask a dozen people about their greatest fears, and you’ll likely get a dozen different responses. That, along with the complexity of the human brain, makes fear—and its close cousin, anxiety—difficult to study. For this reason, clinical anti-anxiety medicines have mixed results, even though they are broadly prescribed. In fact, one in six Americans takes a psychiatric drug.
LA JOLLA—Most people have heard of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology, which acts as targeted molecular scissors to cut and replace disease-causing genes with healthy ones. But DNA is only part of the story; many genetic diseases are caused by problems with RNA, a working copy of DNA that is translated into proteins.
LA JOLLA—While most fat cells in the human body store energy, everyone has a small subset of brown fat cells that do the opposite—burn energy and generate heat. Now, Salk researchers have discovered how the molecule ERRγ gives this “healthier” brown fat its energy-expending identity, making those cells ready to warm you up when you step into the cold, and potentially offering a new therapeutic target for diseases related to obesity. The paper appears in Cell Reports on March 13, 2018.
LA JOLLA—For the seventh consecutive time, the Salk Institute’s strong financial health and continuing commitment to accountability and transparency have earned a coveted 4-star (out of 4 stars) rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity and nonprofit evaluator. Receiving the highest ranking for seven consecutive ratings puts Salk in a distinguished class of nonprofits—only four percent of nonprofits evaluated achieve that status, indicating that the Salk Institute outperforms most other charities in America in this regard.
LA JOLLA—If you’ve ever wondered how strenuous exercise translates into better endurance, researchers at the Salk Institute may have your answer. In a study published in the journal Cell Reports on March 6, 2018, scientists in Ronald Evans’ lab have shown that the protein ERRγ (ERR gamma) helps deliver many of the benefits associated with endurance exercise.
LA JOLLA—Legs and arms perform very different functions. Our legs are responsible primarily for repetitive locomotion, like walking and running. Our arms and hands, by contrast, must be able to execute many highly specialized jobs—picking up a pen and writing, holding a fork, or playing the violin, just to name three.
LA JOLLA—We count on firefighters to protect us in life-threatening situations. So it’s in everyone’s best interest for them to be healthy and fit. Salk Institute and University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers have been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the Department of Homeland Security for a three-year study to see whether restricting food intake to a 10-hour window can improve firefighters’ well-being.
LA JOLLA—A team of investigators led by Salk Professor Inder Verma has received a $1.2 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to generate transparent tissues in mammals using optically unique proteins called reflectins. This work will allow researchers to make better observations and extend the capabilities of live microscopy, such as observing the brain activity of mice while they are awake.
LA JOLLA—Minutes after you eat a meal, as nutrients rush into your bloodstream, your body makes massive shifts in how it breaks down and stores fats and sugars. Within half an hour, your liver has made a complete switch, going from burning fat for energy to storing as much glucose, or sugar, as possible. But the speed at which this happens has flummoxed scientists—it’s too short a time span for the liver’s cells to activate genes and produce the RNA blueprints needed to assemble new proteins to guide metabolism.
LA JOLLA—Expanding the resources available to its faculty through the office of chief science officer, the Salk Institute announced that Kurt Marek, PhD, has joined as director of research development. In this role, Marek will work closely with the Institute’s faculty and leadership to support the advancement of Salk research by enhancing its ability to secure major grants.
LA JOLLA—To everything there is a season. This saying applies to many human endeavors, but new research shows it’s even true on the molecular level. A Salk Institute study published in the journal Science on February 8, 2018, found that the activity of nearly 80 percent of genes follows a day/night rhythm in many tissue types and brain regions.
LA JOLLA—Elevating and expanding its postdoctoral program, the Salk Institute announced that Tricia Wright, PhD, has joined as its first postdoctoral scholar advisor, a newly created position responsible for overseeing the Institute’s new, dedicated Postdoctoral Office.
LA JOLLA—Padres Pedal the Cause has donated more than $2.4 million to support cancer studies at the Salk Institute, Rady Children’s Hospital, Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health and Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. The check was presented to representatives from the four organizations on January 24 and was the largest donation ever made by the grassroots organization.
LA JOLLA—With Elizabeth Blackburn planning to retire at the end of this summer, the Salk Institute has augmented its operational leadership structure, naming Professor Fred “Rusty” Gage as Interim President and Blackburn as President Emerita, as the Board of Trustees begins a search for a permanent successor. In December, Blackburn announced plans to retire and engage even more broadly in issues related to science and science policy.