Aging and Regenerative Medicine

Overview

Overview


One thing’s for sure: we all get older. The biology of aging, however, is still largely a mystery. And as for getting sick as we age—we think that might be optional. At Salk, we are deciphering the molecular and cellular causes of aging, and searching for ways to stave off Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age-related ailments. We’re studying how the body heals itself and we’re working on stem cell technologies that may one day be used to replace organs damaged by injury and disease. They say aging isn’t for the timid, but we think bold science could help people stay healthy as they age.

Research


ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease that attacks motor neurons controlling voluntary movement, leading to progressive paralysis and muscle atrophy. The typically fatal disorder, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, was named after the legendary New York Yankee slugger who died of the mysterious illness in 1941. Although ALS was first classified as a disease over 140 years ago, there are still few clues as to its cause. At Salk, we are uncovering the origins of the disease, from identifying genetic mutations linked to the disorder to explaining how it damages the neural circuits that facilitate movement. We think knowledge is power; and we are leveraging that power to stop this deadly disease.

Martyn Goulding

Professor

Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory

Kuo-Fen Lee

Professor

Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology

Samuel Pfaff

Professor

Gene Expression Laboratory

Paul Sawchenko

Professor and Laboratory Head

Laboratory of Neuronal Structure and Function

Dave Schubert

Professor and Laboratory Head

Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease robs people of thinking skills and memory, stealing their ability to recognize their loved ones and to carry out the most basic tasks. There are no treatments for this progressive, ultimately fatal disease, which affects more than 5 million Americans. We want to change that. At the Salk Institute, we are searching for the root causes of Alzheimer’s disease, exploring how aging cells within the brain, along with genetic mutations and errant proteins, contribute to the disorder. This disease-specific research is a beacon of hope for the millions of patients with Alzheimer's disease and their families.

Nicola Allen

Assistant Professor

Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory

Rusty Gage

Professor

Laboratory of Genetics

Martin Hetzer

Professor

Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory

Axel Nimmerjahn

Assistant Professor

Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center

John Reynolds

Professor

Systems Neurobiology Laboratory

Paul Sawchenko

Professor and Laboratory Head

Laboratory of Neuronal Structure and Function

Dave Schubert

Professor and Laboratory Head

Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory

Terrence Sejnowski

Professor and Laboratory Head

Computational Neurobiology Laboratory

Diabetes, Type 1

Individuals with type 1 diabetes cannot regulate their blood sugar levels because their pancreas does not produce enough insulin. There is no cure for this disease, which is diagnosed in about 40,000 people annually in the United States. It can be managed, but there are still risks for serious complications, including blindness, heart attack, kidney failure and stroke. At the Salk Institute, we are focusing on the islet cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for producing insulin. We are looking for ways to protect them from damage or to coax them back to health. Our regenerative medicine research on stem cells is currently paving the way to grow new pancreatic tissues in the lab—healthy tissues that can benefit those people with type 1 diabetes. We’re doing the science today so that one day people won’t have to live with this disease.

Ronald Evans

Professor and Director

Gene Expression Laboratory

Marc Montminy

Professor

Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology

Alan Saghatelian

Professor

Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology

Reuben Shaw

Professor

Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory

John B. Thomas

Professor

Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory

Ye Zheng

Associate Professor

Nomis Foundation Laboratories for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis

Diabetes, Type 2

Humans are built to hunger for fat, packing it on during times of feast and burning it off during periods of famine. But when deluged by foods rich in fat and sugar, the modern waistline often far exceeds the need to store energy for lean times. Theresult has been an epidemic of diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related problems. At Salk, we study how our cells and organs store and burn fat, gaining knowledge about the ebb and flow of energy throughout our body. We are charting the genetics and molecular programming that control normal physiology and identifying what goes wrong when obesity and diabetes disrupt this equilibrium. Our goal is to develop innovative therapies that target and treat the causes of obesity and diabetes, not just the symptoms.

Ronald Evans

Professor and Director

Gene Expression Laboratory

Vicki Lundblad

Professor

Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory

Marc Montminy

Professor

Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology

Satchidananda Panda

Professor

Regulatory Biology Laboratory

Alan Saghatelian

Professor

Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology

Reuben Shaw

Professor

Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory

John B. Thomas

Professor

Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory

Ye Zheng

Associate Professor

Nomis Foundation Laboratories for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis

Parkinson’s Disease

The devastating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are linked to the loss of a specific type of brain cell responsible for producing dopamine, a molecule critical for brain function. People with this disorder suffer from a range of debilitating problems, including tremors, rigidity of the limbs and trunk, loss of coordination and depression and anxiety. While treatments exist to help address the symptoms, there currently is no cure for the disease. At the Salk Institute, we are identifying the mutated genes and proteins involved in Parkinson’s disease, and tracing how these molecular malefactors damage the brain. We are charting the architecture of the brain centers altered by Parkinson’s disease to understand how to block or even reverse the effects of this terrible disorder.

Edward Callaway

Professor

Systems Neurobiology Laboratory

Martyn Goulding

Professor

Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory

Martin Hetzer

Professor

Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte

Professor

Gene Expression Laboratory

Xin Jin

Assistant Professor

Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory

Axel Nimmerjahn

Assistant Professor

Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center

Samuel Pfaff

Professor

Gene Expression Laboratory

Paul Sawchenko

Professor and Laboratory Head

Laboratory of Neuronal Structure and Function

Dave Schubert

Professor and Laboratory Head

Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory

Terrence Sejnowski

Professor and Laboratory Head

Computational Neurobiology Laboratory

Mitochondrial Disease

For the thousands of women around the globe who carry a mitochondrial disease, having a healthy child can be a gamble. This set of diseases affects mitochondria, tiny powerhouses that generate energy in the body’s cells; they are passed exclusively from mother to child. At Salk, we are pioneering techniques to eliminate mitochondrial mutations from eggs or early embryos, a breakthrough with the potential to prevent babies from inheriting mitochondrial diseases. Additionally, our research on metabolism has suggested that high-fat diets may help control the symptoms of these disorders. Not only do we want to improve the lives of people with mitochondrial disorders, we aim to stop the chain of heredity for good.

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte

Professor

Gene Expression Laboratory

Inder Verma

Professor

Laboratory of Genetics

American Cancer Society Professor of Molecular Biology

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