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Salk News


In surprising twist, some Alzheimer’s plaques may be protective, not destructive

LA JOLLA—One of the characteristic hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the buildup of amyloid-beta plaques in the brain. Most therapies designed to treat AD target these plaques, but they’ve largely failed in clinical trials. New research by Salk scientists upends conventional views of the origin of one prevalent type of plaque, indicating a reason why treatments have been unsuccessful.


Dannielle Engle awarded prestigious pancreatic cancer research grant honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg

LA JOLLA—Salk Assistant Professor Dannielle Engle was selected as the first recipient of the Lustgarten Foundation-AACR Career Development Award for Pancreatic Cancer Research in Honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the late Supreme Court Justice and women’s rights pioneer.


Parkinson’s, cancer, type 2 diabetes share a key element that drives disease

LA JOLLA—When cells are stressed, chemical alarms go off, setting in motion a flurry of activity that protects the cell’s most important players. During the rush, a protein called Parkin hurries to protect the mitochondria, the power stations that generate energy for the cell. Now Salk researchers have discovered a direct link between a master sensor of cell stress and Parkin itself. The same pathway is also tied to type 2 diabetes and cancer, which could open a new avenue for treating all three diseases.


How brain cells repair their DNA reveals “hot spots” of aging and disease

LA JOLLA—Neurons lack the ability to replicate their DNA, so they’re constantly working to repair damage to their genome. Now, a new study by Salk scientists finds that these repairs are not random, but instead focus on protecting certain genetic “hot spots” that appear to play a critical role in neural identity and function.


Salk appoints biophysicist Uri Manor as Assistant Research Professor

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has appointed Uri Manor to the position of assistant research professor, a non-tenure faculty position, as part of its ongoing commitment to attract and retain top talent. Manor has been a Salk staff scientist and director of the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Core Facility since 2016. He will lead an independent research group and continue his work developing cutting-edge imaging techniques to illuminate biologically relevant targets.


Fast, portable test can diagnose COVID-19 and track variants

LA JOLLA—Clinicians using a new viral screening test can not only diagnose COVID-19 in a matter of minutes with a portable, pocket-sized machine, but can also simultaneously test for other viruses—like influenza—that might be mistaken for the coronavirus. At the same time, they can sequence the virus, providing valuable information on the spread of COVID-19 mutations and variants. The new test, dubbed NIRVANA, was described online today by a multi-institution team of scientists in the journal Med.


Salk Scientists receive $1.5 million from The Conrad Prebys Foundation’s inaugural grant cycle

LA JOLLA—Salk Professor Thomas Albright has been awarded $1 million and Assistant Professor Edward Stites awarded $500,000 by The Conrad Prebys Foundation as part of its inaugural round of grants. The funding will support Albright’s project looking at how our visual sense changes as we age or gain experience at new visual tasks, and Stites’ project investigating how specific FDA-approved drugs function against three types of melanoma mutations, which drive approximately 80 percent of melanomas.


New protein helps carnivorous plants sense and trap their prey

LA JOLLA—The brush of an insect’s wing is enough to trigger a Venus flytrap to snap shut, but the biology of how these plants sense and respond to touch is still poorly understood, especially at the molecular level. Now, a new study by Salk and Scripps Research scientists identifies what appears to be a key protein involved in touch sensitivity for flytraps and other carnivorous plants.


Salk scientist Ronald Evans receives 2021 Asan Award in Basic Medicine

LA JOLLA—Salk Professor Ronald Evans, director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and March of Dimes Chair in Molecular and Developmental Biology, has been awarded the 2021 Asan Award in Basic Medicine by the Asan Foundation.


Salk Professor Wolfgang Busch named first incumbent of the Hess Chair in Plant Science

LA JOLLA—Salk Professor Wolfgang Busch has been recognized for his contributions and dedication to advancing science through research by being named the first holder of the Hess Chair in Plant Science, effective April 1, 2021.


New method could democratize deep learning-enhanced microscopy

LA JOLLA—Deep learning is a potential tool for scientists to glean more detail from low-resolution images in microscopy, but it’s often difficult to gather enough baseline data to train computers in the process. Now, a new method developed by scientists at the Salk Institute could make the technology more accessible—by taking high-resolution images, and artificially degrading them.


$200,000 gifted to Salk’s Coastal Plant Restoration project

Recently, donors completed a matching challenge, gifting $200,000 to Salk’s Coastal Plant Restoration (CPR) program to address increasingly urgent needs to preserve some of the world’s largest carbon reservoirs and restore global wetland ecosystems. This approach holds great promise for safeguarding these tremendous carbon sinks while stabilizing, and in many cases, rebuilding land lost to erosion and unprecedented sea level rise.


Salk Professors Satchin Panda and Tatyana Sharpee honored with endowed chairs

LA JOLLA—Professors Satchin Panda and Tatyana Sharpee have both been recognized for their contributions and dedication to advancing science through research by being named to endowed chairs at the Salk Institute.


Salk receives $1 million from BioMed Realty to support innovative cancer research and faculty

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute received a matching $1 million gift from the BioMed Realty Management Team, which was used to fund the recruitment of award-winning cancer researcher Christina Towers and to support her research and that of the Salk Cancer Center. The challenge match—where BioMed Realty matches, dollar for dollar, up to $1 million—will also support Salk’s bold Conquering Cancer Initiative, which is harnessing cutting-edge approaches to fight some of the deadliest cancers, including pancreatic, ovarian, lung, colon, brain (glioblastoma) and triple-negative breast cancer.


Salk team reveals never-before-seen antibody binding, informing both liver cancer and antibody design

LA JOLLA—In structural biology, some molecules are so unusual they can only be captured with a unique set of tools. That’s precisely how a multi-institutional research team led by Salk scientists defined how antibodies can recognize a compound called phosphohistidine—a highly unstable molecule that has been found to play a central role in some forms of cancer, such as liver and breast cancer and neuroblastoma.


Research catches up to world’s fastest-growing plant

LA JOLLA—Wolffia, also known as duckweed, is the fastest-growing plant known, but the genetics underlying this strange little plant’s success have long been a mystery to scientists. Now, thanks to advances in genome sequencing, researchers are learning what makes this plant unique—and, in the process, discovering some fundamental principles of plant biology and growth.


Specific bacteria in the gut prompt mother mice to neglect their pups

LA JOLLA—As scientists learn more about the microorganisms that colonize the body—collectively called the microbiota—one area of intense interest is the effect that these microbes can have on the brain. A new study led by Salk Institute scientists has identified a strain of E. coli bacteria that, when living in the guts of female mice, causes them to neglect their offspring.


Salk’s NOMIS Center receives $9.5 million to shape the future of research into health and immunity

LA JOLLA—As we endure a global viral pandemic, our appreciation for health and immunity has never been greater. Now, thanks to a generous gift from the NOMIS Foundation, Salk’s NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis will receive $9.5 million to grow and expand, while continuing to be a leader in health and immunity research.


Salk scientists awarded $1.2 million by Larry L. Hillblom Foundation to study brain aging and dementia

LA JOLLA—A collaborative team of Salk scientists led by Professor John Reynolds will receive $1.2 million over four years as part of a Network Grant from the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation to examine aging across the life span, including age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. The research will advance our understanding of aging mechanisms at the cognitive, genomic and cellular levels with potentially direct translatability to humans. Other members of the team include Salk President and Professor Rusty Gage, Staff Scientist Uri Manor, Senior Staff Researcher Courtney Glavis-Bloom, and Carol Marchetto, an assistant professor at the University of California San Diego.


Statement by Salk President Rusty Gage on the events of January 6, 2021

Yesterday will be remembered as one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history, as one of the most important institutions central to our freedom and democracy was attacked by a mob with malice and force in a failed attempt to prevent the constitutional certification of the November elections.