LA JOLLA—Salk Professor Christian Metallo has been recognized for his outstanding contributions to advancing science by being named the next holder of the Daniel and Martina Lewis Chair, effective January 1, 2023. Professor Geoffrey Wahl previously held this chair position.
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—Approximately half of people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes experience peripheral neuropathy—weakness, numbness, and pain, primarily in the hands and feet. The condition occurs when high levels of sugar circulating in the blood damage peripheral nerves. Now, working with mice, Salk Institute researchers have identified another factor contributing to diabetes-associated peripheral neuropathy: altered amino acid metabolism.
LA JOLLA—Numerous studies have shown health benefits of time-restricted eating including increase in life span in laboratory studies, making practices like intermittent fasting a hot topic in the wellness industry. However, exactly how it affects the body on the molecular level, and how those changes interact across multiple organ systems, has not been well understood. Now, Salk scientists show in mice how time-restricted eating influences gene expression across more than 22 regions of the body and brain. Gene expression is the process through which genes are activated and respond to their environment by creating proteins.
LA JOLLA—Obesity and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, are extremely common in the United States. Tiny proteins called microproteins have long been overlooked in research, but new evidence demonstrates that they have an important role in metabolism. Salk scientists have discovered that both brown and white fat is filled with thousands of previously unknown microproteins, and show that one of these microproteins, called Gm8773, can increase appetite in mice.
LA JOLLA—The San Diego Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging, a collaboration between the Salk Institute, UC San Diego, and Sanford Burnham Prebys, received new funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to enroll participants from the Rancho Bernardo Study of Healthy Aging into their own clinical cohort to study differences in how individuals age. Initiated 50 years ago by the late UC San Diego Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, the Rancho Bernardo Study is one of the longest, continuously NIH-funded studies in existence.
LA JOLLA—Firefighters are the heroes of our society, protecting us around the clock. But those 24-hour shifts are hard on the body and increase the risk of cardiometabolic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as cancer. In collaboration with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, scientists from the Salk Institute and UC San Diego Health conducted a clinical trial and found that time-restricted eating improved measures of health and wellbeing in firefighters. The lifestyle intervention only required the firefighters to eat during a 10-hour window and did not involve skipping meals.
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—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.
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—Professor Ronald Evans will receive $1.2 million over four years as part of a Network Grant from the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation to examine a molecular pathway that regulates blood sugar and fat independent of insulin. The research will advance our understanding of type 2 diabetes and could lead to the development of new therapies for treating the disease. Other members of the team include Professors Jin Zhang and Alan Saltiel from the University of California San Diego.
LA JOLLA—The discovery of insulin 100 years ago opened a door that would lead to life and hope for millions of people with diabetes. Ever since then, insulin, produced in the pancreas, has been considered the primary means of treating conditions characterized by high blood sugar (glucose), such as diabetes. Now, Salk scientists have discovered a second molecule, produced in fat tissue, that, like insulin, also potently and rapidly regulates blood glucose. Their finding could lead to the development of new therapies for treating diabetes, and also lays the foundation for promising new avenues in metabolism research.
LA JOLLA—Salk Professors Joanne Chory, Joseph Ecker, Rusty Gage, Satchidananda Panda, Reuben Shaw and Kay Tye have been named to the Highly Cited Researchers list by Clarivate. The list identifies researchers who demonstrate “significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers.” Chory, Ecker and Gage have been named to this list every year since 2014, when the regular annual rankings began. This is Tye’s fifth, Shaw’s third and Panda’s first time receiving the designation. Additionally, Ecker appeared in two separate categories: “plant and animal science” and “molecular biology and genetics” and is one of 3.4 percent of researchers selected in two fields. Joseph Nery, a research assistant II in the Ecker lab, was also included on the list.
LA JOLLA—Time-restricted eating (TRE), a dietary regimen that restricts eating to specific hours, has garnered increased attention in weight-loss circles. A new study by Salk scientists further shows that TRE confers multiple health benefits besides weight loss. The study also shows that these benefits may depend on sex and age.
LA JOLLA—A Salk Institute team led by Professor Satchin Panda, along with teams from five other organizations, have been awarded a total of $220 million by the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation’s Human Performance Alliance, whose philanthropic investment aims to transform human health on a global scale through the discovery and translation of the biological principles underlying human performance.
LA JOLLA—Type 1 diabetes, which arises when the pancreas doesn’t create enough insulin to control levels of glucose in the blood, is a disease that currently has no cure and is difficult for most patients to manage. Scientists at the Salk Institute are developing a promising approach for treating it: using stem cells to create insulin-producing cells (called beta cells) that could replace nonfunctional pancreatic cells.
LA JOLLA—When cells are stressed, chemical alarms go off, setting in motion a flurry of activity that protects the cell’s most important players. During the rush, a protein called Parkin hurries to protect the mitochondria, the power stations that generate energy for the cell. Now Salk researchers have discovered a direct link between a master sensor of cell stress and Parkin itself. The same pathway is also tied to type 2 diabetes and cancer, which could open a new avenue for treating all three diseases.
LA JOLLA—The diabetes drug metformin—derived from a lilac plant that’s been used medicinally for more than a thousand years—has been prescribed to hundreds of millions of people worldwide as the frontline treatment for type 2 diabetes. Yet scientists don’t fully understand how the drug is so effective at controlling blood glucose.
LA JOLLA—Salk Institute scientists have made a major advance in the pursuit of a safe and effective treatment for type 1 diabetes, an illness that impacts an estimated 1.6 million Americans with a cost of $14.4 billion annually.
LA JOLLA—Chronic liver disease represents a major global public health problem affecting an estimated 844 million people, according to the World Health Organization. It is among the top causes of mortality in Australia, the UK and the United States. At the same time, it is both difficult to manage and there is no FDA-approved anti-fibrotic liver therapy. The microbiome—a complex collection of microbes that inhabit the gut—may be an unexpected indictor of health. Now, a collaborative team of Salk Institute and UC San Diego scientists have created a novel microbiome-based diagnostic tool that, with the accuracy of the best physicians, quickly and inexpensively identifies liver fibrosis and cirrhosis over 90 percent of the time in human patients.
LA JOLLA—Salk and Scripps Research Institute scientists, along with collaborators at the pharmaceutical company Lundbeck, identified two genes that can regulate levels of healthy fats, called FAHFAs, in mice. The team found that the loss of the two genes led to higher-than-normal levels of the beneficial FAHFAs, while blocking the genes’ activity with an experimental drug also increased FAHFA levels.
LA JOLLA—Metabolic syndrome affects nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population, and increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. But lifestyle interventions such as adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical exercise are difficult to maintain and, even when combined with medication, are often insufficient to fully manage the disease.
LA JOLLA—The metabolic protein AMPK has been described as a kind of magic bullet for health. Studies in animal models have shown that compounds that activate the protein have health-promoting effects to reverse diabetes, improve cardiovascular health, treat mitochondrial disease—even extend life span. However, how much of the effects of these compounds can be fully attributed to AMPK versus other potential targets is unknown.
LA JOLLA—Approximately 1.25 million Americans are living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), with an additional 40,000 people newly diagnosed every year. T1D is an autoimmune disease that destroys insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells. Insulin is a hormone that allows sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. Without insulin, blood sugar accumulates, causing toxic side effects. Despite active research, T1D has no cure. While treatments, including daily insulin injections, are available, managing the disease remains challenging, and poorly controlled T1D can lead to blindness, organ failure and other health issues.
LA JOLLA—Scientists at the Salk Institute found that mice lacking the biological clocks thought to be necessary for a healthy metabolism could still be protected against obesity and metabolic diseases by having their daily access to food restricted to a 10-hour window.
LA JOLLA—A new study from the Salk Institute has found that mice that have their microbiomes depleted with antibiotics have decreased levels of glucose in their blood and better insulin sensitivity. The research has implications for understanding the role of the microbiome in diabetes. It also could lead to better insight into the side effects seen in people who are being treated with high levels of antibiotics. The study appeared in the journal Nature Communications on July 20, 2018.
LA JOLLA—More than 27 million people in the United States are living with type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the population ages and a growing percentage of people become overweight or obese, that number is expected to increase.
LA JOLLA—While most fat cells in the human body store energy, everyone has a small subset of brown fat cells that do the opposite—burn energy and generate heat. Now, Salk researchers have discovered how the molecule ERRγ gives this “healthier” brown fat its energy-expending identity, making those cells ready to warm you up when you step into the cold, and potentially offering a new therapeutic target for diseases related to obesity. The paper appears in Cell Reports on March 13, 2018.
LA JOLLA—If you’ve ever wondered how strenuous exercise translates into better endurance, researchers at the Salk Institute may have your answer. In a study published in the journal Cell Reports on March 6, 2018, scientists in Ronald Evans’ lab have shown that the protein ERRγ (ERR gamma) helps deliver many of the benefits associated with endurance exercise.
LA JOLLA—We count on firefighters to protect us in life-threatening situations. So it’s in everyone’s best interest for them to be healthy and fit. Salk Institute and University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers have been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the Department of Homeland Security for a three-year study to see whether restricting food intake to a 10-hour window can improve firefighters’ well-being.
LA JOLLA—Minutes after you eat a meal, as nutrients rush into your bloodstream, your body makes massive shifts in how it breaks down and stores fats and sugars. Within half an hour, your liver has made a complete switch, going from burning fat for energy to storing as much glucose, or sugar, as possible. But the speed at which this happens has flummoxed scientists—it’s too short a time span for the liver’s cells to activate genes and produce the RNA blueprints needed to assemble new proteins to guide metabolism.
LA JOLLA—To everything there is a season. This saying applies to many human endeavors, but new research shows it’s even true on the molecular level. A Salk Institute study published in the journal Science on February 8, 2018, found that the activity of nearly 80 percent of genes follows a day/night rhythm in many tissue types and brain regions.
LA JOLLA—Salk scientists have created a new version of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology that allows them to activate genes without creating breaks in the DNA, potentially circumventing a major hurdle to using gene editing technologies to treat human diseases.
LA JOLLA—Every week, there seems to be another story about the health benefits of running. That’s great—but what if you can’t run? For the elderly, obese or otherwise mobility-limited, the rewards of aerobic exercise have long been out of reach.
LA JOLLA—FedEx, UPS, DHL—when it comes to sending packages, choices abound. But the most important delivery service you may not have heard of? mRNA. That’s short for messenger RNA, which is how your DNA sends blueprints to the protein-assembly factories of your cells. When a protein is faulty, delivering synthetic mRNA to cells could trigger production of a functional version. And that’s a message people with a variety of genetic diseases want to hear.
LA JOLLA—At noon every day, levels of genes and proteins throughout your body are drastically different than they are at midnight. Disruptions to this 24-hour cycle of physiological activity are why jet lag or a bad night’s sleep can alter your appetite and sleep patterns for days—and even contribute to conditions like heart disease, sleep disorders and cancers.
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—Salk scientists have solved a longstanding problem in the effort to create replacement cells for diabetic patients. The team uncovered a hidden energy switch that, when flipped, powers up pancreatic cells to respond to glucose, a step that eluded previous research. The result is the production of hundreds of millions of lab-produced human beta cells—able to relieve diabetes in mice.
LA JOLLA—A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has discovered two enzymes that appear to play a role in metabolism and inflammation—and might someday be targeted with drugs to treat type 2 diabetes and inflammatory disorders.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has named Professor Reuben Shaw as the new director of Salk’s National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center. Shaw is a member of Salk’s Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory and the holder of the William R. Brody Chair.
LA JOLLA—Diabetes is often the result of obesity and poor diet choices, but for some older adults the disease might simply be a consequence of aging. New research has discovered that diabetes—or insulin resistance—in aged, lean mice has a different cellular cause than the diabetes that results from weight gain (type 2). And the findings point toward a possible cure for what the co-leading scientists, Ronald Evans and Ye Zheng, are now calling a new kind of diabetes (type 4).
LA JOLLA, CA—The Salk Institute will co-lead a new transatlantic ‘Dream Team’ of researchers that will launch a fresh attack on pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of cancer on both sides of the Atlantic. Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), Cancer Research UK, and The Lustgarten Foundation selected the team and will provide $12 million in funding over three years.
LA JOLLA–Breakfast, lunch and dinner? For too many of us, the three meals of the day go more like: morning meeting pastry, mid-afternoon energy drink and midnight pizza. In Cell Metabolism on September 24, Salk Institute scientists present daily food and beverage intake data collected from over 150 participants of a mobile research app over three weeks. They show that a majority of people eat for 15 hours or longer, with less than a quarter of the day’s calories being consumed before noon and over a third consumed after 6 p.m.
LA JOLLA–Mice that have a genetic version of mitochondrial disease can easily be mistaken for much older animals by the time they are nine months old: they have thinning grey hair, osteoporosis, poor hearing, infertility, heart problems and have lost weight. Despite having this disease at birth, these mice have a “secret weapon” in their youth that staves off signs of aging for a time.
LA JOLLA–A study tying the aging process to the deterioration of tightly packaged bundles of cellular DNA could lead to methods of preventing and treating age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, as detailed April 30, 2015, in Science.
LA JOLLA–Salk researchers have developed an entirely new type of pill that tricks the body into thinking it has consumed calories, causing it to burn fat. The compound effectively stopped weight gain, lowered cholesterol, controlled blood sugar and minimized inflammation in mice, making it an excellent candidate for a rapid transition into human clinical trials.
LA JOLLA–These days, with the abundance of artificial light, TV, tablets and smartphones, adults and children alike are burning the midnight oil. What they are not burning is calories: with later bedtimes comes the tendency to eat.
LA JOLLA–Scientists at the Salk Institute and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston have discovered a new class of molecules–produced in human and mouse fat–that protects against diabetes.
LA JOLLA—In mice with diet-induced diabetes—the equivalent of type 2 diabetes in humans—a single injection of the protein FGF1 is enough to restore blood sugar levels to a healthy range for more than two days. The discovery by Salk scientists, published today in the journal Nature, could lead to a new generation of safer, more effective diabetes drugs.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute is pleased to welcome a new full professor and three new assistant professors, all exceptional leaders in their respective fields. The new faculty will facilitate innovative and collaborative breakthroughs in understanding human health and disease.
LA JOLLA—For most people, the urge to eat a meal or snack comes at a few, predictable times during the waking part of the day. But for those with a rare syndrome, hunger comes at unwanted hours, interrupts sleep and causes overeating.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has received a $3 million gift from the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research to allow the Institute to continue conducting research to understand the biology of normal human aging and age-related diseases.
LA JOLLA—Reuben Shaw, a member of the Salk Institute’s Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute early career scientist, has been promoted from associate professor to full professor.
After a rigorous evaluation process by Salk senior faculty, nonresident fellows and scientific peers, the promotion was announced Friday.
LA JOLLA, CA—A new approach to mapping how proteins interact with each other, developed at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, could aid in the design of new drugs for diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis. By reengineering proteins using artificial amino acids, the Salk scientists determine the detailed molecular structure of a cellular
switch and its ligand, the molecule that turns it on. The switch—corticotrophin releasing factor type 1
(CRF1R)—belongs to a class of cellular receptors whose structures are notoriously hard to determine. These receptors regulate processes throughout the body and are involved in many diseases.
LA JOLLA, CA—The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) has given Salk scientist Mark Huising a five-year, $750,000 Career Development Award for his proposed study on how a novel network of receptors in human islets receives and integrates molecular signals. In pre-clinical models, activation of these receptors has proven to actually prevent diabetes. Career Development Awards are highly competitive and bestowed upon only a handful of people each year.
LA JOLLA, CA—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, has selected four Salk scientists and two of the Institute’s nonresident fellows to be inducted in its first class of the fellows of the AACR Academy.
LA JOLLA, CA—A team of scientists, including researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has discovered that a drug used to treat canker sores appears to reverse obesity in mice. The findings, published February 10 in Nature Medicine, may lead to new weight-loss medications that could have an impact on growing obesity and diabetes rates in the United States.
The drug, amlexanox, has been on the market for more than 15 years. Different formulations of the drug are used in Japan to treat asthma and in the United States to treat canker sores. Human clinical trials for weight loss are expected to begin later this year.
LA JOLLA, CA—You might think you have nothing in common with mustard except hotdogs. Yet based on research in a plant from the mustard family, Salk scientists have discovered a possible explanation for how organisms, including humans, directly regulate chemical reactions that quickly adjust the growth of organs. These findings overturn conventional views of how different body parts coordinate their growth, shedding light on the development of more productive plants and new therapies for metabolic diseases.
LA JOLLA, CA—Ever since discovering a decade ago that a gene altered in lung cancer regulated an enzyme used in therapies against diabetes, Reuben Shaw has wondered if drugs originally designed to treat metabolic diseases could also work against cancer.
LA JOLLA, CA—The Salk Institute for Biological Studies has received a $42 million gift-the largest in the Institute’s history-to establish the Helmsley Center for Genomic Medicine (HCGM), a research center dedicated to decoding the common genetic factors underlying many complex chronic human diseases.
LA JOLLA, CA—When it’s dark, and we start to fall asleep, most of us think we’re tired because our bodies need rest. Yet circadian rhythms affect our bodies not just on a global scale, but at the level of individual organs, and even genes.
LA JOLLA, CA—Growing evidence suggests that there may be a link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, but the physiological mechanisms by which diabetes impacts brain function and cognition are not fully understood. In a new study published in Aging Cell, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies show, for the first time, that diabetes enhances the development of aging features that may underlie early pathological events in Alzheimer’s.
LA JOLLA, CA—Scientists have known for some time that throwing off the body’s circadian rhythm can negatively affect body chemistry. In fact, workers whose sleep-wake cycles are disrupted by night shifts are more susceptible to chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cancer.
LA JOLLA, CA—With their potential to treat a wide range of diseases and uncover fundamental processes that lead to those diseases, embryonic stem (ES) cells hold great promise for biomedical science. A number of hurdles, both scientific and non-scientific, however, have precluded scientists from reaching the holy grail of using these special cells to treat heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
LA JOLLA, CA—It turns out that when we eat may be as important as what we eat. Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have found that regular eating times and extending the daily fasting period may override the adverse health effects of a high-fat diet and prevent obesity, diabetes and liver disease in mice.
LA JOLLA, CA—Humans are built to hunger for fat, packing it on during times of feast and burning it 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, and the result has been an epidemic of diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related problems.
LA JOLLA, CA—In their extraordinary quest to decode human metabolism, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have discovered a pair of molecules that regulates the liver’s production of glucose—the simple sugar that is the source of energy in human cells and the central player in diabetes.
LA JOLLA, CA—The discovery of a major gear in the biological clock that tells the body when to sleep and metabolize food may lead to new drugs to treat sleep problems and metabolic disorders, including diabetes.
LA JOLLA, CA—Faculty members Reuben Shaw and Lei Wang, have been promoted to the position of Associate Professor at the Salk Institute after a rigorous evaluation process by Salk senior faculty, Non-Resident Fellows, and scientific peers. The career milestone distinguishes these two investigators as leading authorities in their respective disciplines who have made original, innovative and notable contributions to biological research.
LA JOLLA, CA—Salk Institute scientist Ronald Evans has been selected as the recipient of the prestigious 2012 Wolf Prize in Medicine, Israel’s highest award for achievements benefiting mankind. According to the Wolf Prize jury, Evans was selected for his discovery of the gene super-family encoding nuclear receptors and elucidating the mechanism of action of this class of receptors.
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.