In this issue
“Thoughts of rejuvenation arrive with spring and in this issue of Inside Salk you’ll find that much of our current work at the Institute focuses on innovative ways to achieve vibrancy and health.”
AgingThe Goldilocks effect in aging researchEver since researchers connected the shortening of telomeres— the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes—to aging and disease, the race has been on to understand the factors that govern telomere length. Salk Professor and holder of the Donald and Darlene Shiley Chair Jan Karlseder, first author Teresa Rivera and colleagues have found that a balance of elongation and trimming in stem cells results in telomeres that are, as Goldilocks would say, not too short and not too long, but just right.
GeneticsHeart disease, leukemia linked to dysfunction in nucleusWe put things into a container to keep them organized and safe. In cells, the nucleus has a similar role: keeping DNA protected and intact within an enveloping membrane. But a new study by the lab of Martin Hetzer, detailed in the November 2, 2016, issue of Genes & Development, reveals that this cellular container acts on its contents to influence gene expression.
ImmunologyImmune receptors amplify “invader” signals by turning into mini-machinesWhen a receptor on the surface of a T cell—a sentry of the human immune system—senses a single particle from a harmful intruder, it immediately kicks the cell into action, launching a larger immune response. But exactly how the signal from a single receptor, among thousands on each T cell, can be amplified to affect a whole cell has puzzled immunologists for decades.
MicrobiomeFeed a cold, starve a fever?Not so fast, according to Salk research 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.
NeuroscienceBuilding a better brainWhen you build models, whether ships or cars, you want them to be as much like the real deal as possible. This quality is even more crucial for building model organs, because disease treatments developed from these models have to be safe and effective for humans. Salk Professor Joseph Ecker, first author Chongyuan Luo and European collaborators have studied a 3D “mini-brain” grown from human stem cells and found it to be structurally and functionally more similar to real brains than the 2D models in widespread use.
RegenerationTurning back time: Salk scientists reverse signs of agingSalk Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, along with first authors Alejandro Ocampo, Paloma Martinez-Redondo, Pradeep Reddy and colleagues, found that intermittent expression of genes normally associated with an embryonic state can reverse the hallmarks of old age. Their approach, which not only prompted human skin cells in a dish to look and behave young again, also resulted in the rejuvenation of mice with a premature aging disease, countering signs of aging and increasing the animals’ lifespan by 30 percent.
In their new book for greater health throughout our lives, Salk President and Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn and health psychologist Elissa Epel explain an important aspect of the aging process in humans at a fundamental level.
Assistant Professor Diana Hargreaves has received a V Scholar Grant from the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which will provide $100,000 per year for two years to support her investigation of gene mutations in ovarian cancer with the ultimate goal of finding new strategies to combat the disease.
Outgoing Salk Board Chair Irwin Jacobs was feted like rock royalty at the Trustees’ dinner in November at the La Jolla home of Michele and Ted Waitt, Salk’s new Board chair.
Salk supporters filled the Conrad Prebys Auditorium for a Back to Basics lecture on November 9 featuring Nicola Allen, assistant professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory. Allen spoke about her lab’s research on glia, a cell proving essential for the brain to work properly.
Nearly 100 science teachers attended the inaugural “Ellen Potter Research Connections for Teachers Symposium” at the Institute this fall in honor of Salk’s retiring Education Outreach director.
The Salk Institute received $300,000 for cancer research for participating in the Padres Pedal the Cause cycling fundraiser. More than 20 cyclists on Team Salk Cancer Center rode November 12–13 to help raise $2 million, which was shared with three other local research centers.