Discoveries
Aging
Aging
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Discoveries

Journals of Gerontology Series A
06/02/2017

Natural plant compound may reduce mental effects of aging

Pamela Maher, a senior staff scientist in the lab of Dave Schubert, found further evidence that a natural compound in strawberries reduces cognitive deficits and in inflammation associated with aging in mice. The work, which appeared in the Journals of Gerontology Series A in June 2017, builds on the team’s previous research into the antioxidant fisetin, finding it could help treat age-related mental decline and conditions like Alzheimer’s or stroke.

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Nature Methods
06/26/2017

New method to rapidly map the “social networks” of proteins

Professor Joseph Ecker and collaborators from UC San Diego developed a new high-throughput technique to determine which proteins in a cell interact with each other. Mapping this network of interactions, or “interactome,” has been slow going in the past because the number of interactions that could be tested at once was limited. The new approach, published June 26, 2017, in Nature Methods, lets researchers test millions of relationships between thousands of proteins in a single experiment.

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Nature Methods
07/03/2017

Tilted microscopy technique better reveals protein structures

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 including influenza and HIV, according to new research led by Helmsley-Salk Fellow Dmitry Lyumkis. The work appeared in Nature Methods on July 3, 2017.

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Current Biology
07/06/2017

How plants grow like human brains

Plants and brains are more alike than you might think.

Salk scientists Saket Navlakha, Charles Stevens, Joanne Chory and colleagues discovered that the mathematical rules governing how plants grow are similar to how brain cells sprout connections.

The team gathered data from 3D laser scans of plants to build a statistical description of theoretically possible plant shapes by studying the plant’s branch density function, which depicts the likelihood of finding a branch at any point in the space surrounding a plant. Basically, this says that branch growth is densest near the plant’s center and gets less dense farther out following a bell curve. This property turned out to be universal regardless of a plant’s growth conditions (sun versus shade, for example). The work, published in Current Biology on July 6, 2017, and based on data from 3D laser scanning of plants, suggests there may be universal rules of logic governing branching growth across many biological systems.

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Cell Systems
07/26/2017

Subway networks mimic plant architectures

It might seem like a tomato plant and a subway system don’t have much in common, but both, it turns out, are networks that strive to make similar tradeoffs between cost and performance. Using 3D laser scans of growing plants, Assistant Professor Saket Navlakha, Professor and HHMI Investigator Joanne Chory, first author Adam Conn and colleagues found that the same universal design principles that humans use to engineer networks like subways also guide the shapes of plant branching architectures. The work, which appears in the July 26, 2017, issue of Cell Systems, could direct strategies to increase crop yields or breed plants better adapted to climate change.
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Science
07/27/2017

Salk scientists solve longstanding biological mystery of DNA organization

Stretched out, the DNA from all the cells in our body would reach Pluto. So how does each tiny cell pack a two-meter length of DNA into its nucleus, which is just one-thousandth of a millimeter across? The answer to this daunting biological riddle is central to understanding how the three-dimensional organization of DNA in the nucleus influences our biology.
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Nature
08/02/2017

Early gene-editing success holds promise for preventing inherited diseases

Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, co–first author Jun Wu and collaborators have corrected a disease-causing mutation in early stage human embryos. The technique, which uses the CRISPR-Cas9 system, corrected the mutation for a common heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy at the earliest stage of embryonic development so that the defect would not be passed on to future generations.
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Nature Comm
08/30/2017

Protein turnover may be useful marker of aging

It may seem paradoxical, but studying what goes wrong in rare diseases can provide useful insights into normal health. Probing the premature aging disorder Hutchinson-Gilford progeria, Salk Vice President, Chief Science Officer and Professor Martin Hetzer and Staff Scientist Abby Buchwalter have uncovered an errant protein process in the disease that could help healthy people as well as progeria sufferers live longer. When a cell devotes too much time to protein production, other important functions may be neglected. The work, described in Nature Communications on August 30, 2017, adds to a growing body of evidence that reducing protein synthesis can extend lifespan—and thus may offer a useful therapeutic target to counter both premature and normal aging.

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Science
08/10/2017

New kinds of brain cells revealed

Under a microscope, it can be hard to tell the difference between any two neurons, the brain cells that store and process information. So scientists have turned to molecular methods to try to identify groups of neurons with different functions. Professor and HHMI Investigator Joseph Ecker, Senior Staff Scientist Margarita Behrens, Research Associate Chongyuan Luo and collaborators have, for the first time, profiled chemical modifications of DNA molecules in individual neurons, giving the most detailed information yet on what makes one brain cell different from its neighbor. The work appeared in Science on August 10, 2017.

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Cell Stem Cell
09/14/2017

Partnership for a healthy brain

Professor Rusty Gage, Professor and Chief Science Officer Martin Hetzer, first author Tomohisa Toda and colleagues have discovered that an interaction between two key proteins in the cell nucleus helps regulate and maintain the cells that produce neurons. The work, published in Cell Stem Cell on September 14, 2017, offers insight into why an imbalance between these precursor cells and neurons might contribute to mental illness or age-related brain disease. The immune system automatically destroys dysfunctional cells such as cancer cells, but cancerous tumors often survive nonetheless.

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Nature Cell Biology
09/18/2017

MicroRNA helps cancer evade immune system

A study by Salk Professor Juan Carlos Izpiusa Belmonte, former Salk Research Associate Min-Zu (Michael) Wu and collaborators shows one method by which fast-growing tumors evade anti-tumor immunity. The team uncovered two gene-regulating molecules that alter cell-signaling within tumor cells to survive and subvert the body’s normal immune response, according to a September 18, 2017 paper in Nature Cell Biology.
Nature
09/20/2017

The right way to repair DNA

Is it better to do a task quickly and make mistakes, or to do it slowly but perfectly? When it comes to deciding how to fix breaks in DNA, cells face the same choice between two major repair pathways. The decision matters, because the wrong choice could cause even more DNA damage and lead to cancer. Professor Jan Karlseder and first author Nausica Arnoult found that a tiny protein called CYREN helps cells choose the right pathway at the right time, clarifying a longstanding mystery about DNA repair and offering researchers a powerful tool that could guide better treatments for cancer.

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