LA JOLLA—Researchers at the Salk Institute and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia have discovered a new underlying cause of Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, a rare genetic disease that leads to bleeding and immune deficiencies in babies. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Communications on June 25, 2022, revolve around how cells cut and paste strands of RNA in a process called RNA splicing. The genetic mutations associated with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, they found, disrupt this process which, in turn, prevents numerous immune and anti-inflammatory proteins from being made correctly.
LA JOLLA–Insect-eating plants have fascinated biologists for more than a century, but how plants evolved the ability to capture and consume live prey has largely remained a mystery. Now, Salk scientists, along with collaborators from Washington University in St. Louis, have investigated the molecular basis of plant carnivory and found evidence that it evolved from mechanisms plants use to defend themselves.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has named plant molecular geneticist Mary Lou Guerinot a Nonresident Fellow, a group of eminent scientific advisors that guide the Institute’s leadership. Guerinot holds the Ronald and Deborah Harris Professorship in the Sciences and is a professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth College, where she was the first woman to chair a science department.
LA JOLLA–Research Professor Todd Michael will receive nearly $2 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to sequence the genomes of multiple lineages of the cassava plant, a large starchy root vegetable also known as yuca root consumed in more than 80 countries around the world. A better understanding of cassava genetics will help researchers and plant breeders develop more productive disease- and drought-resistant plants for the future.
LA JOLLA—Understanding how HIV replicates within cells is key for developing new therapies that could help nearly 40 million people living with HIV globally. Now, a team of scientists from the Salk Institute and Rutgers University have for the first time determined the molecular structure of HIV Pol, a protein that plays a key role in the late stages of HIV replication, or the process through which the virus propagates itself and spreads through the body. Importantly, determining the molecule’s structure helps answer longstanding questions about how the protein breaks itself apart to advance the replication process. The discovery, published in Science Advances on July 6, 2022, reveals a new vulnerability in the virus that could be targeted with drugs.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has named Gerald Joyce, a professor in the Jack H. Skirball Center for Chemical Biology and Proteomics, to the position of senior vice president and chief science officer.
LA JOLLA—Professor Emeritus Walter Eckhart, who served as director of the Salk Institute’s National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and head of the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory for more than 30 years, died suddenly on June 21, 2022, at his home in La Jolla, California. He was 84.
LA JOLLA—Salk scientists have uncovered an unexpected molecular target of a common treatment for alopecia, a condition in which a person’s immune system attacks their own hair follicles, causing hair loss. The findings, published in Nature Immunology on June 23, 2022, describe how immune cells called regulatory T cells interact with skin cells using a hormone as a messenger to generate new hair follicles and hair growth.
LA JOLLA—An international team of researchers, including Salk Institute Professor Janelle Ayres, has been selected to receive a $25 million Cancer Grand Challenges award to tackle the challenge of cancer cachexia, a debilitating wasting condition that often leads to a poor quality of life for people in the later stages of their cancer. Cachexia is responsible for up to 30 percent of cancer-related deaths.
LA JOLLA—Assistant Professor Christina Towers has been named a 2022 Pew-Stewart Scholar for Cancer Research as part of a partnership between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust. Towers is among this year’s six early-career scientists who will each receive $300,000 over the next four years to support research focused on a better understanding of the causes, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
LA JOLLA—Three Salk Institute faculty members have been promoted based on their outstanding scientific contributions. They are leaders who have made original, innovative and notable contributions to neuroscience. Assistant Professors Kenta Asahina and Eiman Azim were promoted to associate professor, and Associate Research Professor Margarita Behrens was promoted to research professor.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute announced today the appointment of Bryan Robinson as vice president of external relations. Effective July 8, 2022, he will oversee the Institute’s philanthropic efforts, communications, public programs and events.
LA JOLLA—For the eleventh 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. Only two percent of the approximately 10,000 nonprofits evaluated have achieved this recognition 11 consecutive times. 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.
LA JOLLA—Salk Institute Professor Terrence Sejnowski has been awarded the 2022 Gruber Neuroscience Prize by the Gruber Foundation for his “pioneering contributions to computational and theoretical neuroscience.” He shares the $500,000 award with Larry Abbott of Columbia University, Emery Neal Brown of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital, and Haim Sompolinsky of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Harvard University.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute was proud to host French luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton and guests on May 12 for a private fashion show presenting the brand’s Cruise 2023 collection. The show was the first event of its kind to be held at the Institute.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute Board of Trustees welcomes its newest member, Carol Gallagher. Chaired by Marna C. Whittington, the Salk Board helps drive the direction of the world-renowned biological research facility founded by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk in 1960.
LA JOLLA–Whether it’s making rash decisions or feeling grumpy, hunger can make us think and act differently—“hangry,” even. But little is known about how hunger signals in the gut communicate with the brain to change behavior. Now, Salk scientists are using worms as a model to examine the molecular underpinnings and help explain how hunger makes an organism sacrifice comfort and make risky decisions to get a meal.
LA JOLLA—Mammals can’t typically regenerate organs as efficiently as other vertebrates, such as fish and lizards. Now, Salk scientists have found a way to partially reset liver cells to more youthful states—allowing them to heal damaged tissue at a faster rate than previously observed. The results, published in Cell Reports on April 26, 2022, reveal that the use of reprogramming molecules can improve cell growth, leading to better liver tissue regeneration in mice.
LA JOLLA—For years, the brain has been thought of as a biological computer that processes information through traditional circuits, whereby data zips straight from one cell to another. While that model is still accurate, a new study led by Salk Professor Thomas Albright and Staff Scientist Sergei Gepshtein shows that there’s also a second, very different way that the brain parses information: through the interactions of waves of neural activity. The findings, published in Science Advances on April 22, 2022, help researchers better understand how the brain processes information.
LA JOLLA—Every day, your pancreas produces about one cup of digestive juices, a mixture of molecules that can break down the food you eat. But if these powerful molecules become activated before they make their way to the gut, they can damage the pancreas itself—digesting the very cells that created them, leading to the painful inflammation known as pancreatitis, and predisposing a person to pancreatic cancer.