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Salk News


Salk and UC San Diego scientists receive $1.5 million to study firefighter health

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.


Salk scientist receives $1.2 million grant from Keck Foundation to develop transparent tissues for diagnostics and therapeutics

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.


Salk researchers discover how liver responds so quickly to food

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.


Salk Institute names Kurt Marek, PhD, new director of research development

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.


Timing is everything, to our genes

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.


Salk Institute enhances postdoctoral program, as Tricia Wright, PhD, joins as first postdoctoral scholar advisor

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.


Padres Pedal the Cause provides $2.4 million for cancer research

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.


Salk Institute augments leadership structure

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.


The Salk Institute and Indivumed partner to advance global cancer research

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute, which hosts a National Cancer Institute (NCI)–designated cancer center and Indivumed GmbH, a world leading cancer research company today announce a multi-year strategic alliance to secure, preserve and analyze human cancer tissue and annotated clinical data from consenting patients around the world, enabling the most cutting-edge basic and translational research in cancer.


Salk scientists curb growth of cancer cells by blocking access to key nutrients

LA JOLLA—Salk researchers have discovered how to curb the growth of cancer cells by blocking the cells’ access to certain nutrients. The approach, detailed in a new paper published today in Nature, took advantage of knowledge on how healthy cells use a 24-hour cycle to regulate the production of nutrients and was tested on glioblastoma brain tumors in mice.


What happens when your brain’s support cells aren’t so supportive?

LA JOLLA—Potentially explaining why even healthy brains don’t function well with age, Salk researchers have discovered that genes that are switched on early in brain development to sever connections between neurons as the brain fine-tunes, are again activated in aging neuronal support cells called astrocytes. The work, which appeared in Cell Reports on January 2, 2018, suggests that astrocytes may be good therapeutic targets to prevent or reverse the effects of normal aging.


Alzheimer’s drug turns back clock in powerhouse of cell

LA JOLLA—The experimental drug J147 is something of a modern elixir of life; it’s been shown to treat Alzheimer’s disease and reverse aging in mice and is almost ready for clinical trials in humans. Now, Salk scientists have solved the puzzle of what, exactly, J147 does. In a paper published January 7, 2018, in the journal Aging Cell, they report that the drug binds to a protein found in mitochondria, the energy-generating powerhouses of cells. In turn, they showed, it makes aging cells, mice and flies appear more youthful.


Self-defense for plants

LA JOLLA—When you see brown spots on otherwise healthy green leaves, you may be witnessing a plant’s immune response as it tries to keep a bacterial infection from spreading. Some plants are more resistant to such infections than others, and plant biologists want to understand why. Salk Institute scientists studying a plant protein called SOBER1 recently discovered one mechanism by which, counterintuitively, plants seem to render themselves less resistant to infection.


Salk scientists Joanne Chory and Terrence Sejnowski named to National Academy of Inventors

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute Professors Joanne Chory and Terrence Sejnowski have been elected Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Chory is director of the Salk Institute’s Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator and holder of the Howard H. and Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology. Sejnowski is head of the Institute’s Computational Neurobiology Laboratory, an HHMI Investigator and holder of the Francis Crick Chair.


Salk Institute President Elizabeth Blackburn announces retirement

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute President Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn has announced her plans to retire and step down as the Institute’s head at the end of this summer. The Board of Trustees, led by Dan Lewis, who was elected Chair in November, will commence a search for Blackburn’s successor beginning in January.


Multifunctional protein contributes to blood cell development

LA JOLLA—Like an actor who excels at both comedy and drama, proteins also can play multiple roles. Uncovering these varied talents can teach researchers more about the inner workings of cells. It also can yield new discoveries about evolution and how proteins have been conserved across species over hundreds of millions of years.


Getting straight to the heart of the matter in stem cells

LA JOLLA—The process by which embryonic stem cells develop into heart cells is a complex process involving the precisely timed activation of several molecular pathways and at least 200 genes. Now, Salk Institute scientists have found a simpler way to go from stem cells to heart cells that involves turning off a single gene.


Revealing the best-kept secrets of proteins

LA JOLLA—In the bustling setting of the cell, proteins encounter each other by the thousands. Despite the hubbub, each one manages to selectively interact with just the right partners, thanks to specific contact regions on its surface that are still far more mysterious than might be expected, given decades of research into protein structure and function.


When your spinal cord takes charge

LA JOLLA—We think of our brain as masterminding all of our actions, but a surprising amount of information related to movement gets processed by our spinal cord.


Salk scientists modify CRISPR to epigenetically treat diabetes, kidney disease, muscular dystrophy

LA JOLLA—Salk scientists have created a new version of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology that allows them to activate genes without creating breaks in the DNA, potentially circumventing a major hurdle to using gene editing technologies to treat human diseases.