Margaret Faye Wilson, a leader in the banking and retail industries, died on July 10. She served as a Trustee on Salk’s Board from 2010 to 2019 and was a generous donor of the Institute over the years, including supporting the Institute’s premier annual event, Symphony at Salk.
LA JOLLA—On Saturday, August 19, the Salk Institute will celebrate 27 years of Symphony at Salk, its premier annual fundraiser and concert under the stars, with the breathtaking sounds of the San Diego Symphony and guest performer Jennifer Hudson, a two-time GRAMMY Award-winning recording artist, Academy Award-winning actress, and Tony and Emmy Award-winning producer.
LA JOLLA—The life of the tiny worm called Caenorhabditis elegans consists mostly of looking for food, eating food, and laying eggs. So, when any of these behaviors are disrupted, there’s cause for concern. In a new study, Salk Institute scientists discovered that the “feel good” brain chemical dopamine regulates anxious worm behavior in the presence of nipping predators.
LA JOLLA—Worldwide, more than a million deaths occur each year due to diarrheal diseases that lead to dehydration and malnutrition. Yet, no vaccine exists to fight or prevent these diseases, which are caused by bacteria like certain strains of E. coli. Instead, people with bacterial infections must rely on the body taking one of two defense strategies: kill the intruders or impair the intruders but keep them around. If the body chooses to impair the bacteria, then the disease can occur without the diarrhea, but the infection can still be transmitted—a process called asymptomatic carriage.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute welcomes Assistant Professor Daniel Bayless, a neurobiologist who studies the influence of sex hormones on social interaction and behavior in mice. Bayless joins Salk’s world-renowned neuroscience faculty—a collaborative team working to uncover how our brains work so we can build resilience in the face of stress, aging, and disease.
LA JOLLA—The immune system protects the body from invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, or tumors, with its intricate network of proteins, cells, and organs. Specialized immune cells, called cytotoxic T cells, can develop into short-lived effector cells that kill infected or cancerous cells within our bodies. A small portion of those effector cells remain after an infection and become longer-lived memory cells, which “remember” infections and respond when infections reappear. But little was known about what influences cytotoxic T cells to transform into these effector and memory T cell subtypes.
LA JOLLA—The cellular life inside a plant is as vibrant as the blossom. In each plant tissue—from root tip to leaf tip—there are hundreds of cell types that relay information about functional needs and environmental changes. Now, a new technology developed by Salk scientists can capture this internal plant world at an unprecedented resolution, opening the door for understanding how plants respond to a changing climate and leading to more resilient crops.
LA JOLLA—Situated at the intersection of the human immune system and the brain are microglia, specialized brain immune cells that play a crucial role in development and disease. Although the importance of microglia is undisputed, modeling and studying them has remained a difficult task.
LA JOLLA—In addition to communicating with neurotransmitters, the brain also uses small proteins called neuropeptides. Neuropeptides send signals between neurons, working similarly to neurotransmitters but with key differences like a greater size and an ability to travel far away from the neuron that produces them. Though their importance is widely recognized, the way neuropeptides move around the brain and influence neurons has remained poorly understood—until now.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute and Autobahn Labs, an early-stage drug discovery incubator, will work together to identify and advance promising initial scientific discoveries through the preliminary steps of drug discovery and development. Autobahn Labs will invest up to $5 million per project for Salk discoveries that require access to drug development expertise and state-of-the art capabilities.
LA JOLLA—Five Salk Institute faculty members have been promoted for their notable, innovative contributions to science. These faculty members have demonstrated leadership in their disciplines, pushing the boundaries of basic scientific research. Assistant Professors Sung Han, Dmitry Lyumkis, and Graham McVicker were promoted to associate professors, and Associate Professors Sreekanth Chalasani and Ye Zheng were promoted to professors. The promotions were based on Salk faculty and nonresident fellow recommendations and approved by Salk’s president and Board of Trustees on April 21, 2023.
LA JOLLA—Salk Institute Professor Susan Kaech, director of the NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She shares the honor with some of the world’s most accomplished leaders from science and technology, business, public affairs, education, the humanities, and the arts. Kaech and the new class of nearly 270 members will be inducted at a formal ceremony on September 30, 2023, at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
LA JOLLA—Scientists often act as detectives, piecing together clues that alone may seem meaningless but together crack the case. Professor Reuben Shaw has spent nearly two decades piecing together such clues to understand the cellular response to metabolic stress, which occurs when cellular energy levels dip. Whether energy levels fall because the cell’s powerhouses (mitochondria) are failing or due to a lack of necessary energy-making supplies, the response is the same: get rid of the damaged mitochondria and create new ones.
LA JOLLA—Brains are like puzzles, requiring many nested and codependent pieces to function well. The brain is divided into areas, each containing many millions of neurons connected across thousands of synapses. These synapses, which enable communication between neurons, depend on even smaller structures: message-sending boutons (swollen bulbs at the branch-like tips of neurons), message-receiving dendrites (complementary branch-like structures for receiving bouton messages), and power-generating mitochondria. To create a cohesive brain, all these pieces must be accounted for.
LA JOLLA—Itch is a protective signal that animals use to prevent parasites from introducing potentially hazardous pathogens into the body. If a mosquito lands on a person’s arm, they sense its presence on their skin and quickly scratch the spot to remove it. Itchiness due to something like a crawling insect is known as “mechanical” and is distinct from “chemical” itchiness generated by an irritant such as the mosquito’s saliva if it were to bite the person’s arm. While both scenarios cause the same response (scratching), recent research by Salk Institute scientists has revealed that, in mice, a dedicated brain pathway drives the mechanical sensation and is distinct from the neural pathway that encodes the chemical sensation.
LA JOLLA—Hess Corporation is donating $50 million to the Salk Institute’s Campaign for Discovery: The Power of Science, a seven-year, $750 million comprehensive fundraising campaign to attract the people and build the technology and space necessary to accelerate critical research. This gift will specifically advance Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative—an effort to mitigate climate change by optimizing plants and supporting wetlands to increase capture of excess atmospheric carbon—and provide vital infrastructure for this work by establishing the new Hess Center for Plant Science.
LA JOLLA—The spinal cord acts as a messenger, carrying signals between the brain and body to regulate everything from breathing to movement. While the spinal cord is known to play an essential role in relaying pain signals, technology has limited scientists’ understanding of how this process occurs on a cellular level. Now, Salk scientists have created wearable microscopes to enable unprecedented insight into the signaling patterns that occur within the spinal cords of mice.
LA JOLLA—Cancer treatments have long been moving toward personalization—finding the right drugs that work for a patient’s unique tumor, based on specific genetic and molecular patterns. Many of these targeted therapies are highly effective, but aren’t available for all cancers, including non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) that have an LKB1 genetic mutation. A new study led by Salk Institute Professor Reuben Shaw and former postdoctoral fellow Lillian Eichner, now an assistant professor at Northwestern University, revealed FDA-approved trametinib and entinostat (which is currently in clinical trials) can be given in tandem to produce fewer and smaller tumors in mice with LKB1-mutated NSCLC.