Why hungry worms take risks
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. Associate Professor Sreekanth Chalasani, co-first author Molly Matty and colleagues are using worms as a model to examine the molecular underpinnings that help explain how hunger makes an organism sacrifice comfort and make risky decisions to get a meal. Their latest findings reveal that proteins in intestinal cells move dynamically to transmit signals about hunger, ultimately driving worms to cross toxic barriers to reach food. Similar mechanisms may also occur in humans and could explain how we prioritize basic needs over comfort.
- What’s so special about Salk? Everything.An exceptional history, visionary design and trailblazing faculty make the Salk Institute unique among elite research institutions. And we’re just getting started. Today, Salk faculty are daily making discoveries that may one day turn the tide on Alzheimer’s, aging, cancers, climate change and more.
- Margarita Behrens—Master of brain circuitsGrowing up in Chile, Research Professor Margarita Behrens was torn between becoming an architect and a scientist. She ultimately decided to pursue biochemistry. Now at Salk, Behrens studies how neurons develop in the brain. Her findings have implications for neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.
- Julie Auger—Shaping Salk’s science through shared resourcesJulie Auger’s mother was at a conference in the mid-1980s when she met Jonas Salk. She got his autograph and mailed it to Auger with a note saying, “Don’t ever stop trying to achieve your dreams.” Auger took her mom’s advice, and today she is the executive director of Research Operations at the Salk Institute.
- Gaurav Mendiratta— Using math to solve cancerJumping from theoretical physics to cancer research with no prior training in biological sciences wasn’t an easy transition for Gaurav Mendiratta. Couple this with a move across the world and the birth of his first child shortly after starting his postdoctoral training in a newly opened laboratory—Mendiratta had his work cut out for him.
- A trailblazer’s lasting legacy: Ursula Bellugi bridged humanity and scienceDespite being a world-renowned, award-winning scientific pioneer, Distinguished Professor Emerita Ursula Bellugi didn’t like to say she was smart. Instead, she credited her tremendous success to her insatiable curiosity and her willingness to ask the right questions. This past spring, the world lost a true trailblazer.