As COVID-19 spreads across the world, organizations like the Salk Institute have mobilized to respond. In this feature article, read about how the Institute is adapting and continuing its groundbreaking science.
In the last few months, Salk Vice President and Chief Science Officer Martin Hetzer spearheaded the Institute’s efforts to respond to the pandemic from both an administrative as well as a scientific perspective.
In addition to Salk’s ongoing research areas relevant to COVID-19, several new coronavirus-specific projects have recently launched. These innovative projects range from understanding the structure of the virus to mobilizing the body’s immune reaction.
As the director of the Next Generation Sequencing Core, Staff Scientist Nasun Hah collaborates with everyone from plant biologists to neuroscientists to provide support and information about sequencing genes and entire genomes.
“The Salk Institute has tapped its experts in virology, immunology and infectious disease on potential approaches and put together a committee to identify and review COVID-19 research proposals.”
Although alcohol use is ubiquitous in modern society, only a portion of individuals develop alcohol use disorders or addiction. Yet, scientists have not understood why some individuals are prone to developing drinking problems, while others are not. Professor Kay Tye and colleagues have discovered a brain circuit that controls alcohol drinking behavior in mice.
The function of tuft cells—cells sensitive to chemical changes—in the pancreas has largely remained a mystery. Now, Professor Geoffrey Wahl, co-first authors Kathleen DelGiorno and Razia Naeem, and colleagues have uncovered how tuft cells form during pancreatic inflammation as well as their surprising role in immunity, using mouse models of pancreatitis. The findings could lead to the development of new biomarkers to test for pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
One role of plant hormones is to perceive trouble—whether an insect attack, drought or intense heat or cold—and then signal to the rest of the plant to respond. Now, Professor Joseph Ecker, Salk co-first author Mark Zander and collaborators report new details about how plants respond to a hormone called jasmonic acid, or jasmonate. The findings reveal a complex communication network and could help members of Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative develop crops that are hardier and more able to withstand rapid climate change.
If you want to reduce levels of inflammation throughout your body, delay the onset of age-related diseases and live longer—eat less food. That’s the conclusion of a new study led by a collaborative group of scientists, including Salk Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, that provides the most detailed report to date of the cellular effects of a calorie-restricted diet in rats. While the benefits of caloric restriction have long been known, the new results show how this restriction can protect against aging in cellular pathways.
People with osteoarthritis, or “wear and tear” arthritis, have limited treatment options: pain relievers or joint replacement surgery. Research co-led by Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte and Salk co-first authors Paloma Martinez-Redondo and Isabel Guillen-Guillen, has discovered that a powerful combination of two experimental drugs reverses the cellular and molecular signs of osteoarthritis in rats as well as in isolated human cartilage cells.