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Salk News

In Memoriam: Paul F. Glenn

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute lost a good friend and scientific partner when Paul F. Glenn passed away on September 29, 2020, at his home in Montecito, California. He was 89.

Traveling brain waves help detect hard-to-see objects

LA JOLLA—Imagine that you’re late for work and desperately searching for your car keys. You’ve looked all over the house but cannot seem to find them anywhere. All of a sudden you realize your keys have been sitting right in front of you the entire time. Why didn’t you see them until now?

Salk physician-scientist Edward Stites receives NIH Director’s New Innovator Award

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute Assistant Professor Edward Stites has been named an NIH Director’s New Innovator for 2020 as part of the National Institutes of Health’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program. The award “supports unusually innovative research from early career investigators,” according to the NIH and provides $1.5 million for a 5-year project. For his project, Stites will use mathematical and biological approaches to identify strategies to convert failed therapeutics into effective agents.

Joanne Chory wins the 2020 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize

Joanne Chory, who pioneered the application of molecular genetics to plant biology and transformed our understanding of photosynthesis, will receive the 2020 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, Rockefeller’s preeminent award recognizing outstanding women scientists. Chory is the Howard H. and Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology and director of the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory at The Salk Institute. She is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Frances Beinecke, former president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, will present the prize in a virtual ceremony hosted by Rockefeller on October 22.

Top San Diego research institutions, led by Salk, to receive an expected $5 million to study cellular aging in humans

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute will establish a world-class San Diego Nathan Shock Center (SD-NSC), a consortium with Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego), to study cellular and tissue aging in humans. The Center will be funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health expected to total $5 million over the next 5 years (NIA grant number P30AG068635).

Common diabetes drug reverses inflammation in the liver

LA JOLLA—The diabetes drug metformin—derived from a lilac plant that’s been used medicinally for more than a thousand years—has been prescribed to hundreds of millions of people worldwide as the frontline treatment for type 2 diabetes. Yet scientists don’t fully understand how the drug is so effective at controlling blood glucose.

Method to derive blood vessel cells from skin cells suggests ways to slow aging

LA JOLLA—Salk scientists have used skin cells called fibroblasts from young and old patients to successfully create blood vessels cells that retain their molecular markers of age. The team’s approach, described in the journal eLife on September 8, 2020, revealed clues as to why blood vessels tend to become leaky and hardened with aging, and lets researchers identify new molecular targets to potentially slow aging in vascular cells.

First immune-evading cells created to treat type 1 diabetes

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute scientists have made a major advance in the pursuit of a safe and effective treatment for type 1 diabetes, an illness that impacts an estimated 1.6 million Americans with a cost of $14.4 billion annually.

Longtime Salk Professor David Schubert passes at the age of 77

LA JOLLA—Renowned cell biologist and Salk Professor David Schubert passed away on August 6 at the age of 77 in La Jolla, California. He was known for the development of novel screening techniques that allowed his team to identify naturally occurring chemicals that can slow or prevent the neurological damage that occurs in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Imaging method highlights new role for cellular “skeleton” protein

LA JOLLA—While your skeleton helps your body to move, fine skeleton-like filaments within your cells likewise help cellular structures to move. Now, Salk researchers have developed a new imaging method that lets them monitor a small subset of these filaments, called actin.

New molecule reverses Alzheimer’s-like memory decline

LA JOLLA—A drug candidate developed by Salk researchers, and previously shown to slow aging in brain cells, successfully reversed memory loss in a mouse model of inherited Alzheimer’s disease. The new research, published online in July 2020 in the journal Redox Biology, also revealed that the drug, CMS121, works by changing how brain cells metabolize fatty molecules known as lipids.

New maps of chemical marks on DNA pinpoint regions relevant to many developmental diseases

LA JOLLA—In research that aims to illuminate the causes of human developmental disorders, Salk scientists have generated 168 new maps of chemical marks on strands of DNA—called methylation—in developing mice.

Keeping innocent people out of jail using the science of perception

LA JOLLA—People wrongfully accused of a crime often wait years—if ever—to be exonerated. Many of these wrongfully accused cases stem from unreliable eyewitness testimony. Now, Salk scientists have identified a new way of presenting a lineup to an eyewitness that could improve the likelihood that the correct suspect is identified and reduce the number of innocent people sentenced to jail. Their report is published in Nature Communications on July 14, 2020.

The Salk Institute welcomes top scientists in cancer biology and biophysics

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute is pleased to welcome two new assistant professors in the fields of cancer biology and biophysics, respectively. Daniel Hollern and Pallav Kosuri will bring fresh perspectives to advance an understanding of, and find new treatments for, breast cancer and heart disease.

Salk scientists discover genetic “dial” to turn immune function up and down to target cancer, autoimmune disease

LA JOLLA—The human immune system is a finely-tuned machine, balancing when to release a cellular army to deal with pathogens, with when to rein in that army, stopping an onslaught from attacking the body itself. Now, Salk researchers have discovered a way to control regulatory T cells, immune cells that act as a cease-fire signal, telling the immune system when to stand down.

Giant leap in diagnosing liver disease

LA JOLLA—Chronic liver disease represents a major global public health problem affecting an estimated 844 million people, according to the World Health Organization. It is among the top causes of mortality in Australia, the UK and the United States. At the same time, it is both difficult to manage and there is no FDA-approved anti-fibrotic liver therapy. The microbiome—a complex collection of microbes that inhabit the gut—may be an unexpected indictor of health. Now, a collaborative team of Salk Institute and UC San Diego scientists have created a novel microbiome-based diagnostic tool that, with the accuracy of the best physicians, quickly and inexpensively identifies liver fibrosis and cirrhosis over 90 percent of the time in human patients.

Salk researchers accelerate, expand COVID-19 research

LA JOLLA—As the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the globe, the Salk Institute joins in efforts to understand the fundamental science behind the novel coronavirus to pave the way to treatments and cures. COVID-19 exploits a vulnerability in the immune system’s armor: because the SARS-CoV-2 virus—the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19—appeared in humans recently, our immune systems have no experience with the virus—and sometimes have difficulty fighting it.

Statement on the Current Operations at the Salk Institute

The Salk Institute is closed to the public at this time. We do not anticipate reopening to the public until we can do so in a manner that protects the health and safety in accordance with applicable public health orders.

How targeting killer T cells in the lungs could lead to immunity against respiratory viruses

LA JOLLA—A significant site of damage during COVID-19 infection is the lungs. Understanding how the lungs’ immune cells are responding to viral infections could help scientists develop a vaccine.

Message from Rusty Gage and Mallory Zaslav

Our mission to better humanity must extend beyond science. That was the core premise on which we founded the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) at Salk. Repugnant racial discrimination and violence against Black people are devastating reminders of the vital importance of this work, but also of the need to be vigilant in continually assessing and enhancing our efforts. Just as “every cure has a starting point” is championed as our mantra in research towards eradicating disease and other issues threatening human health, it so too must be our mindset in doing our part to eradicate systemic racism and injustice. For each, the essential starting point is an absolute commitment to being constructive forces for progress and agents of meaningful change.