SALK NEWS

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Salk News


Unexpected features of anthrax toxin may lead to new types of therapies

La Jolla, CA – Surprising new insights about the acid pH levels required for anthrax toxin to invade the cells of the body may help accelerate development of medications for the treatment of anthrax, a disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium.


‘Fail safe’ mechanism that helps keep inflammation in check

La Jolla, CA – Shutting down a master activator of the body’s inflammatory response – which is the goal of several experimental drugs now in development for the treatment of arthritis – may create even more inflammation with its associated pain and swelling in the body.


Tiny roundworm’s telomeres help scientists to tease apart different types of aging

La Jolla, CA – The continual and inevitable shortening of telomeres, the protective “caps” at the end of all 46 human chromosomes, has been linked to aging and physical decline. Once they are gone, so are we. But there are more ways than one to grow old.


Salk scientists overturn a dogma of nerve cell communication

La Jolla, CA – Every neurobiology textbook invariably states that nerve cells communicate with each other through synapses, the specialized cell-cell contacts found at the end of the cells’ threadlike extensions. In this week’s journal Science, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences and the University of California at San Diego report that nerve cells, or neurons, may not have to rely on traditionally defined synapses to “talk” to each other.


Spain to send postdoctoral researchers to Salk Institute for training in science of stem cell biology

La Jolla, CA – Over the next five years, the Salk Institute will be a training ground for a total of 30 selected post-doctoral researchers from Spain, in the science of stem cell biology.


For the first time, miniature electrode array records from hundreds of nerve cells simultaneously

La Jolla, CA – For many years, scientists tried to glean information about the nervous system by recording the electrical activity of one brain cell at a time. Because even the simplest functions of the nervous system involve many thousands of neurons, recording the activity of individual or only a handful of nerve cells does not provide a full picture.


France’s highest scientific honor to be awarded this year to Salk Institute scientist Ronald M. Evans

La Jolla, CA – Ronald M. Evans, Ph.D., professor and head of the Gene Expression Laboratory of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, will receive the 2005 Grande Médaille D’Or (Grand Gold Medal), France’s highest scientific honor, for his research discovering how hormones and drugs control the body’s metabolism, development and reproduction.


Cancer related gene p53 not regulated as indicated by previous tissue culture research; results may be relevant to drug development

La Jolla, CA – The cellular cascade of molecular signals that instructs cells with fatally damaged DNA to self-destruct pivots on the p53 tumor suppressor gene. If p53 is inactivated, as it is in over half of all human cancers, checks and balances on cell growth fail to operate, and body cells start to accumulate mutations, which ultimately may lead to cancer. Not surprisingly, the regulation of this vital safeguard has been studied in great detail for many years but mainly in tissue culture, or in vitro, models.


Promiscuous Catalytic Activity Possessed by Novel Enzyme Structure

La Jolla, CA – Nature is a seemingly endless storehouse of interesting – and potentially life-saving – biological molecules. But tracking down and harvesting those chemicals in their natural form can be time-consuming, expensive and unreliable.


“Jumping genes” contribute to the uniqueness of individual brains

La Jolla, CA – Brains are marvels of diversity: no two look the same – not even those of otherwise identical twins. Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies may have found one explanation for the puzzling variety in brain organization and function: mobile elements, pieces of DNA that can jump from one place in the genome to another, randomly changing the genetic information in single brain cells. If enough of these jumps occur, they could allow individual brains to develop in distinctly different ways.


Salk Institute scientist Geoff Wahl named President-elect of world’s largest cancer research organization

La Jolla, CA – Geoffrey M. Wahl, Ph.D., professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, recently was elected the 2006-07 president of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to accelerating scientific progress to prevent and cure cancer.


Deadly infectious entity of prions discovered

La Jolla, CA – The mysterious, highly infectious prions, which cause the severe destruction of the brain that characterizes ‘mad cow disease’ and several human brain degenerative disorders, can be rendered harmless in the laboratory by a slight alternation of the three-dimensional conformation or shape of the prion protein’s structure.


Several minute intermediate stage in virus-cell fusion discovered; possible window of opportunity for drug development

La Jolla, CA – To ignite a life-threatening infection in the body, a virus such as HIV invades body cells by first merging, or fusing, with the cell’s outer membrane. Once inside the cell, the invading microbe’s genetic material takes over, turning the ‘host’ cell into a factory to produce more copies of the virus, which then spill out to invade other cells in the body.


Developing nervous system sculpted by opposing chemical messengers

La Jolla, CA – A newborn baby moves, breathes and cries in part because a network of nerves called motor neurons carry signals from the infant’s brain and spinal cord to muscles throughout its body.


The ultimate spa: embryonic body wash controls left-right development

La Jolla, CA – Humans and other animals may appear to be symmetrical on the outside, but symmetry is only skin deep. Many body organs, such as the stomach, the heart and the liver, are tipped to the right or left side. So how does the developing embryo distinguish left from right? Salk scientists have now discovered that the foundations for the basic left-right body plan are laid by a microscopic ‘pump’ on the outer surface of the embryo’s underside that wafts chemical messengers over to the left side of the body. This sets up a chemical concentration gradient that tells stem cells how and where to develop. The remarkable findings, including movie footage of the ‘pump,’ are published in the May 20th edition of the journal Cell.


Unrestrained retina too much of a good thing

La Jolla, CA – When primitive nerve cells begin forming an eye in the mouse embryo, they are programmed to build a retina. But the ability to see depends upon connecting the retina to the brain via the optic nerve. Unless these embryonic cells are given the right cue at the right time, they mistakenly form a huge eye that consists entirely of retina and lacks the optic nerve.


Vitamin A’s paradoxical role in influencing symmetry during embryonic development revealed by Salk Institute scientists

La Jolla, CA – In this week’s journal Nature, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies report that they have solved one of the ‘holy grail’ puzzles of developmental biology: the existence of a mechanism that insures that the exterior of our bodies is symmetrical while inner organs are arranged asymmetrically.


Salk scientist Rusty Gage elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Awardees also include sculptor, actor and Supreme Court Chief Justice

La Jolla, CA – Fred H. “Rusty” Gage, Ph.D., whose basic research at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has advanced scientific understanding about the potential of the adult brain and nervous system to repair itself, has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a distinction awarded annually to top individuals in business, government, public affairs, the arts and popular culture as well as biomedical research.


In mice, walking (and running) depends on nerve cell chatter during development

La Jolla, CA – The ability of a pair of legs to walk in a stepwise fashion with each other appears to be set up during a brief period as an embryo’s spine develops, when a single neurotransmitter takes its turn to “talk” to nerve cells.


Molecular ‘zipcode’ guides nerves to correct places in body

La Jolla, CA – During embryonic development, thousands of nerves must be connected to muscles as part of a communication network that allows the newborn to move, breathe and lead a normal life. The question is, how does this complicated ‘telephone system’ get wired up?