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Salk News

Salk teams assemble first full epigenomic cell atlas of the mouse brain

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute researchers, as part of a worldwide initiative to revolutionize scientists’ understanding of the brain, analyzed more than 2 million brain cells from mice to assemble the most complete atlas ever of the mouse brain. Their work, published December 13, 2023 in a special issue of Nature, not only details the thousands of cell types present in the brain but also how those cells connect and the genes and regulatory programs that are active in each cell.

Salk Institute celebrates 50th anniversary and renewal of National Cancer Institute designation

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute marks 50 years as a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Center with good news: NCI has renewed the designation and grant support for another five years.

How drugs can target the thick “scar tissue” of pancreatic cancer

LA JOLLA—Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers—only about one in eight patients survives five years after diagnosis. Those dismal statistics are in part due to the thick, nearly impenetrable wall of fibrosis, or scar tissue, that surrounds most pancreatic tumors and makes it hard for drugs to access and destroy the cancer cells.

Salk Fellows Program welcomes physicist Adam Bowman

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has appointed Adam Bowman to the Salk Fellows Program, where he will join current Salk Fellow Talmo Pereira. Joining in March 2024, Bowman is an applied physicist who develops new technologies for optical microscopy.

Repairing nerve cells after injury and in chronic disease

LA JOLLA—Each year in the United States there are more than 3 million cases of peripheral neuropathy, wherein nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord are damaged and cause pain and loss of feeling in the affected areas. Peripheral neuropathy can occur from diabetes, injury, genetically inherited disease, infection, and more. Salk scientists have now uncovered in mice a mechanism for repairing damaged nerves during peripheral neuropathy. They discovered that the protein Mitf helps turn on the repair function of specialized nervous system Schwann cells.

Seven Salk scientists named among best and most highly cited researchers in the world

LA JOLLA—Salk Professors Joseph Ecker, Ronald Evans, Satchidananda Panda, Rusty Gage, and Kay Tye, as well as Assistant Professor Jesse Dixon, have been named to the Highly Cited Researchers list by Clarivate. The 2023 list includes 6,849 researchers from 67 countries, all of whom demonstrate “significant and broad influence reflected in their publication of multiple highly cited papers over the last decade.” This is the ninth consecutive year that Ecker and Gage have made the list. Joseph Nery, a research assistant II in the Ecker lab, was also included on the list.

Genetic architecture may be key to using peacekeeping immune cells to treat autoimmunity or fight cancer

LA JOLLA—Regulatory T cells are specialized immune cells that suppress the immune response and prevent the body from attacking its own cells. Understanding how these cells work is key to determining how they might be manipulated to encourage the destruction of cancer cells or prevent autoimmunity. Cell behavior is influenced by chromatin architecture (the 3D shape of chromosomes) and which genes are accessible to proteins—like Foxp3, which promotes regulatory T cell development.

Jerry Sheehan named Salk Institute’s chief information officer

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has appointed Jerry Sheehan as the Institute’s chief information officer (CIO). He will assume the position December 4. Sheehan served most recently as vice president and CIO at San Diego State University, where he led the development and deployment of information technology infrastructure and services for research, instruction, and administration.

Salk Institute receives Charity Navigator’s highest rating for twelfth consecutive time

LA JOLLA—For the twelfth consecutive time, the Salk Institute has earned the highest ranking—4 out of 4 stars—from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity and nonprofit evaluator. The coveted ranking indicates the Salk Institute has demonstrated strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency, outperforming most other charities in the United States with respect to executing best fiscal practices and carrying out its mission in a financially efficient way.

“A new era in brain science”: Salk researchers unveil human brain cell atlas

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute researchers, as part of a larger collaboration with research teams around the world, analyzed more than half a million brain cells from three human brains to assemble an atlas of hundreds of cell types that make up a human brain in unprecedented detail.

St. Jude and Caltech researchers join Salk Institute as Nonresident Fellows

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has named two highly accomplished scientists to join its faculty as Nonresident Fellows, a group of eminent scientific advisors who guide the Institute’s leadership.

Salk Institute’s Christina Towers receives NIH New Innovator Award

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute Assistant Professor Christina Towers received a five-year, $2.85 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award from the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program. Towers received one of 58 New Innovator Awards this year.

Plant biologist Lena Mueller joins the Salk Institute to study plant-fungi relationships

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute will welcome Assistant Professor Lena Mueller to the faculty in January 2024. Mueller is a plant biologist who studies arbuscular mycorrhiza symbiosis—a beneficial interaction between plants and fungi. She joins Salk from the University of Miami, where she is an assistant professor.

Unleashing the power of AI to track animal behavior

LA JOLLA—Movement offers a window into how the brain operates and controls the body. From clipboard-and-pen observation to modern artificial intelligence-based techniques, tracking human and animal movement has come a long way. Current cutting-edge methods utilize artificial intelligence to automatically track parts of the body as they move. However, training these models is still time-intensive and limited by the need for researchers to manually mark each body part hundreds to thousands of times.

Two Salk Institute faculty members earn V Foundation awards for cancer research

LA JOLLA (September 25, 2023)—Salk Institute Assistant Professors Christina Towers and Deepshika Ramanan were named V Scholars by the V Foundation for Cancer Research. They will each receive $600,000 over three years to fund their unique cancer research goals.

Rewiring tumor mitochondria enhances the immune system’s ability to recognize and fight cancer

LA JOLLA—Immunotherapy, which uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, is an effective treatment option, yet many patients do not respond to it. Thus, cancer researchers are seeking new ways to optimize immunotherapy so that it is more effective for more people. Now, Salk Institute scientists have found that manipulating an early step in energy production in mitochondria—the cell’s powerhouses—reduces melanoma tumor growth and enhances the immune response in mice.

Reducing stress on T cells makes them better cancer fighters

LA JOLLA—Even for killer T cells—specialized immune cells—seeking and destroying cancer cells around the clock can be exhausting. If scientists can understand why killer T cells become exhausted, then they can create more resilient cancer-killing cells.

“Super-enhancer” super-charges pancreatic tumor growth

LA JOLLA—Pancreatic cancers are among the most aggressive, deadly tumor types and, for years, researchers have struggled to develop effective drugs against the tumors. Now, Salk researchers have identified a new set of molecules that fuel the growth of tumors in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common type of pancreatic cancer.

Thank you to our sponsors for a spectacular 27th Symphony at Salk

A full audience of sponsors and community members was entertained by the sensational sounds of the San Diego Symphony, led by conductor Sean O’Loughlin, together with special guest Jennifer Hudson on Saturday, August 19, at the 27th annual Symphony at Salk.

Salk physician-scientist Jesse Dixon named Rita Allen Foundation Award Scholar

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute physician-scientist Jesse Dixon has been named a Rita Allen Foundation Award Scholar, a distinction given to biomedical scientists whose research holds exceptional promise for revealing new pathways to advance human health.