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.
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.
LA JOLLA—Glioblastoma, the most common and deadly form of brain cancer, grows rapidly to invade and destroy healthy brain tissue. The tumor sends out cancerous tendrils into the brain that make surgical tumor removal extremely difficult or impossible.
LA JOLLA—Salk Institute researchers, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, have discovered the molecular mechanisms by which the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) becomes resistant to Dolutegravir, one of the most effective, clinically used antiviral drugs for treating HIV.
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 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—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—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—As we age, the end caps of our chromosomes, called telomeres, gradually shorten. Now, Salk scientists have discovered that when telomeres become very short, they communicate with mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouses. This communication triggers a complex set of signaling pathways and initiates an inflammatory response that destroys cells that could otherwise become cancerous.
LA JOLLA—A drug developed by Salk Institute researchers acts like a master reset switch in the intestines. The compound, called FexD, has previously been found to lower cholesterol, burn fat, and ward off colorectal cancer in mice. Now, the team reports in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on December 12, 2022, that FexD can also prevent and reverse intestinal inflammation in mouse models of inflammatory bowel disease.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute welcomes Assistant Professor Deepshika Ramanan, an innovative researcher studying how the maternal immune system changes during pregnancy and breastfeeding and affects immunity and inflammation in babies across multiple generations. Ramanan will join Salk’s NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis.
LA JOLLA— Mitochondria are known as cells’ powerhouses, but mounting evidence suggests they also play a role in inflammation. Scientists from the Salk Institute and UC San Diego published new findings in Immunity on August 2, 2022, where they examined human blood cells and discovered a surprising link between mitochondria, inflammation and DNMT3A and TET2—two genes that normally help regulate blood cell growth but, when mutated, are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis.
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—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—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—When mice with atopic dermatitis—a common type of allergic skin inflammation—are treated with drugs that target the immune system, their thickened, itchy skin generally heals quickly. But scientists have now discovered that the same treatment in obese mice makes their skin worse, instead. That is because obesity changes the molecular underpinnings of allergic inflammation, both in mice and humans.
LA JOLLA—As we endure a global viral pandemic, our appreciation for health and immunity has never been greater. Now, thanks to a generous gift from the NOMIS Foundation, Salk’s NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis will receive $9.5 million to grow and expand, while continuing to be a leader in health and immunity research.
LA JOLLA—The human immune system is a finely-tuned machine, balancing when to release a cellular army to deal with pathogens, with when to rein in that army, stopping an onslaught from attacking the body itself. Now, Salk researchers have discovered a way to control regulatory T cells, immune cells that act as a cease-fire signal, telling the immune system when to stand down.
LA JOLLA—A significant site of damage during COVID-19 infection is the lungs. Understanding how the lungs’ immune cells are responding to viral infections could help scientists develop a vaccine.
LA JOLLA—Salk scientists have discovered how a powerful class of HIV drugs binds to a key piece of HIV machinery. By solving, for the first time, three-dimensional structures of this complex while different drugs were attached, the researchers showed what makes the therapy so potent. The work, which appeared in Science on January 30, 2020, provides insights that could help design or improve new treatments for HIV.
LA JOLLA—Your immune system comes ready for battle against bacteria, viruses, fungi and even cancer. But in cases of autoimmune disease, the immune system’s superpowers turn it into a supervillain. Now, Salk Institute scientists have discovered a way to stop certain immune system cells from mistakenly attacking the body. Their findings, published the week of August 26, 2019, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest a new way to target Th17 helper T cells, a type of immune cell that produces interleukin 17, a molecule known to be at the root of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. Previous efforts targeting Th17 helper T cells have had limited success.
LA JOLLA—Three Salk Institute faculty members have been promoted after the latest round of faculty reviews determined they are scientific leaders who have made original, innovative and notable contributions to biological research.
LA JOLLA—Over the past several years, CRISPR-Cas9 has moved beyond the lab bench and into the public zeitgeist. This gene-editing tool holds promise for correcting defects inside individual cells and potentially healing or preventing many human ailments. But the Cas9 system alters DNA, not RNA, and some experts believe that being able to modify RNA ultimately may prove just as useful.
LA JOLLA—The imaging method called cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) allows researchers to visualize the shapes of biological molecules with an unprecedented level of detail. Now a team led by researchers from the Salk Institute and the University of Florida is reporting how they used cryo-EM to show the structure of a version of a virus called an AAV2, advancing the technique’s capabilities and the virus’ potential as a delivery vehicle for gene therapies.
LA JOLLA—Antibiotic use is driving an epidemic of antibiotic resistance, as more susceptible bacteria are killed but more resilient strains live on and multiply with abandon. But if antibiotics aren’t the end-all solution for infectious disease, what is?
LA JOLLA—Associate Professor Janelle Ayres is the recipient of a $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to study new ways to treat deadly infections including sepsis and the flu, both of which require novel therapies beyond antibiotics and antivirals to effectively combat.
LA JOLLA—Salk Associate Professor Janelle Ayres has been named one of three winners of the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists, one of the world’s largest unrestricted prizes for early career scientists. Ayres, the laureate in the life sciences category, will receive $250,000 for her pioneering research in physiology and the study of the how bacteria interact with humans. Ayres’ work is revolutionizing our understanding of host-pathogen interactions and has the potential to solve one of the greatest current public health threats: anti-microbial resistance.
LA JOLLA—One of the many challenges in treating HIV is that the virus can lie dormant in cells, quietly evading immune detection until it suddenly roars to life without warning and begins replicating furiously. Salk Institute researchers discovered a small molecule called JIB-04 that destroys the HIV protein called Tat, responsible for revving up the virus.
LA JOLLA—Associate Professor Janelle Ayres is one of 31 US finalists selected to compete for the world’s largest unrestricted prizes for early career researchers, the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. The Blavatnik National Awards recognize both the past accomplishments and the future promise of the most talented scientific and engineering researchers aged 42 years and younger at America’s top academic and research institutions.
LA JOLLA—The conventional way of placing protein samples under an electron microscope during cryo-EM experiments may fall flat when it comes to getting the best picture of a protein’s structure. In some cases, tilting a sheet of frozen proteins—by anywhere from 10 to 50 degrees—as it lies under the microscope, gives higher quality data and could lead to a better understanding of a variety of diseases, according to new research led by Salk scientist Dmitry Lyumkis.
LA JOLLA—The last time you had a stomach bug, you probably didn’t feel much like eating. This loss of appetite is part of your body’s normal response to an illness but is not well understood. Sometimes eating less during illness promotes a faster recovery, but other times—such as when cancer patients experience wasting—the loss of appetite can be deadly.
LA JOLLA—Normally when we think of viruses, from the common cold to HIV, we want to boost people’s immunity to fight them. But for scientists who develop therapeutic viruses (to, for example, target cancer cells or correct gene deficiencies) a more important question is: How do we keep people’s natural immune responses at bay? In these cases, an overenthusiastic immune response actually undermines the therapy.
LA JOLLA—Salk Institute scientists have solved the atomic structure of a key piece of machinery that allows HIV to integrate into human host DNA and replicate in the body, which has eluded researchers for decades. The findings describing this machinery, known as the “intasome,” appear January 6, 2017, in Science and yield structural clues informing the development of new HIV drugs.
Helmsley-Salk Fellow Dmitry Lyumkis has been awarded the 2016 George Palade Award by the Microscopy Society of America. The award is given for distinguished contributions to the field of microscopy and microanalysis in the life sciences of an early career scientist.
LA JOLLA—When the body is fighting an invading pathogen, white blood cells—including T cells—must respond. Now, Salk Institute researchers have imaged how vital receptors on the surface of T cells bundle together when activated.
LA JOLLA—A molecular pathway that is activated in the brain during fasting helps halt the spread of intestinal bacteria into the bloodstream, according to a new study by a team of researchers at the Salk Institute.
LA JOLLA—Using cutting-edge imaging technology, Salk Institute and Harvard Medical School researchers have determined the structure of a protein complex that lets viruses similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) establish permanent infections within their hosts.
LA JOLLA–As concerns over deadly antibiotic-resistant strains of ‘superbug’ bacteria grow, scientists at the Salk Institute are offering a possible solution to the problem: ‘superhero’ bacteria that live in the gut and move to other parts of the body to alleviate life-threatening side effects caused by infections.
LA JOLLA–Salk Institute scientist Janelle Ayres has received an award of $500,000 over two years from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to further her research on bolstering a person’s microbiome to help their body overcome an infection. The award comes with the possibility of an additional $500,000 for a third year.
LA JOLLA–T cells are the guardians of our bodies: they constantly search for harmful invaders and diseased cells, ready to swarm and kill off any threats. A better understanding of these watchful sentries could allow scientists to boost the immune response against evasive dangers (e.g., cancer or infections), or to silence it when it mistakenly attacks the body itself (e.g., autoimmune disorders or allergies).
LA JOLLA–For infants with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), something as simple as a common cold or ear infection can be fatal. Born with an incomplete immune system, kids who have SCID–also known as “bubble boy” or “bubble baby” disease–can’t fight off even the mildest of germs. They often have to live in sterile, isolated environments to avoid infections and, even then, most patients don’t live past a year or two. This happens because stem cells in SCID patients’ bone marrow have a genetic mutation that prevents them from developing critical immune cells, called T and Natural Killer (NK) cells.
LA JOLLA–Imagine a single drug that could prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, treat patients who have already contracted HIV, and even remove all the dormant copies of the virus from those with the more advanced disease. It sounds like science fiction, but Salk scientists have gotten one step closer to creating such a drug by customizing a powerful defense system used by many bacteria and training this scissor-like machinery to recognize the HIV virus.
LA JOLLA–Taking a single snapshot of all the bacteria that live in a mouse’s–or person’s–stomach and intestines can capture the health of the organism’s digestive system and even their risk of developing immune diseases and cancers. But it might take more than one snapshot to get a full picture, Salk researchers have discovered.
Janelle Ayres, Salk assistant professor in the Nomis Foundation Laboratories for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, has been selected to receive the prestigious Ray Thomas Edwards Foundation Career Development Award. Only one three-year grant is conferred annually, aiming to foster the development of a promising early career biomedical researcher in San Diego County and to help him or her make the transition to becoming an independent investigator.
LA JOLLA—For the first time, scientists have turned human skin cells into transplantable white blood cells, soldiers of the immune system that fight infections and invaders. The work, done at the Salk Institute, could let researchers create therapies that introduce into the body new white blood cells capable of attacking diseased or cancerous cells or augmenting immune responses against other disorders.
LA JOLLA–When faced with pathogens, the immune system summons a swarm of cells made up of soldiers and peacekeepers. The peacekeeping cells tell the soldier cells to halt fighting when invaders are cleared. Without this cease-fire signal, the soldiers, known as killer T cells, continue their frenzied attack and turn on the body, causing inflammation and autoimmune disorders such as allergies, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.
LA JOLLA—Janelle Ayres, assistant professor at Salk Institute’s Nomis Foundation Laboratories for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, has received the prestigious Searle Scholar award, which each year is given to only 15 researchers in the fields of chemical and biological sciences.
LA JOLLA, CA—Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have discovered a powerful mechanism by which viruses such as influenza, West Nile and Dengue evade the body’s immune response and infect humans with these potentially deadly diseases. The findings may provide scientists with an attractive target for novel antiviral therapies.
LA JOLLA, CA—The Salk Institute announced today that researchers Björn Lillemeier, and Axel Nimmerjahn, have been named recipients of the prestigious 2012 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award.
LA JOLLA, CA—The Salk Institute is pleased to announce that faculty member Greg Lemke has been named the inaugural holder of the Françoise Gilot-Salk Chair, in recognition of his significant research accomplishments and scientific leadership.
Saint Prex, Switzerland—Ferring Pharmaceuticals, a global, specialty biopharmaceuticals company, has donated $10 million to support research at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. In addition to funding the highest scientific priorities at the Salk, the Ferring gift will enable the creation of the Françoise Gilot-Salk endowed Chair, which will be used to support research on the role that TAM receptors play in immune regulation. These receptors, which were discovered in Professor Greg Lemke‘s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute, are central inhibitors of the innate immune response to bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. The Ferring gift will also continue the endowment of the Frederik Paulsen Chair in Neurosciences, named after Ferring’s founder and first established in 2000.
LA JOLLA, CA—Scientists have discovered a missing link between the body’s biological clock and sugar metabolism system, a finding that may help avoid the serious side effects of drugs used for treating asthma, allergies and arthritis.