With the Second Annual Symposium of the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center approaching at the end of this month, I am reminded what a tremendous influence technology, in the hands of talented people, can have on science. The symposium will bring together physicists, engineers and biologists whose work is allowing us to see the world of our cells in unprecedented detail. These advances offer a powerful window into the workings of life and the disruptions of disease.
Below, you will learn more about the brain's glia, cells whose significance was originally overlooked because their activity could not be detected by the instruments of the day. But times have changed, and glia are just one example of the many ways that technology and Salk's remarkable researchers are rapidly expanding our knowledge of the natural world.
Yours in Discovery,
|The Brain's Dark Matter|
During a recent "PIs and their Passions," a series of talks in which our faculty explain their research, Axel Nimmerjahn told the Salk Community about his work on glia, brain cells that were once dismissed as merely cellular "glue" (glia is Greek for glue) between neurons. Thanks to the work of scientists like Nimmerjahn and one of Salk's newest faculty members, Nicola Allen, glia have come to be recognized as essential for the health of the brain and key to many neurological disorders.
Historically, neuroscientists have studied the brain by measuring and exciting electrical signals in neurons. Only recently, with the creation of chemical indicators, genetic tools and improvements in imaging, could scientists begin to decipher the function of (electrically largely silent) glia. Nimmerjahn has contributed to this advance by pioneering novel imaging techniques, including the creation of tiny microscopes, that enable researchers to see glia working in the brains of healthy and diseased mice, biomedicine's preeminent animal model.
Glia, which represent around 80-90 percent of cells in the human brain, are critical to the development of the nervous system and also help speed conduction of brain signals, among other vital functions. In fact, they are so important that several other Salk PIs are examining them as part of their investigations, including Fred Gage, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, Greg Lemke, Sam Pfaff and Inder Verma.
View a video excerpt from Axel Nimmerjahn's talk that offers more details about the various types of glia>>
|Friends of Salk |
We are delighted to welcome Sanjay Jha, former CEO of Motorola Mobility, to the Salk Board of Trustees.
"Sanjay's extraordinary record of success as a leader in technology and business makes him a valuable addition to our board," says Salk Board Chairman Irwin M. Jacobs. "His wide-ranging curiosity, experience and professional expertise will provide valuable support as we further expand the Institute's scientific impact."
Under Jha's four years of leadership, Motorola Mobility was transformed into a powerhouse in the mobile phone market, primarily due to his decision to take a huge risk on the Android smart phone. He stepped down as CEO in May 2012 after Google completed acquisition of the company.
Previously, Jha served as chief operating officer of Qualcomm Incorporated where he oversaw corporate research and development, Qualcomm Flarion Technologies (QFT). He also served as president of Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT), Qualcomm's chipset and software division during a period of rapid growth.
Joe Noel and Joanne Chory in collaboration with researchers at the University of California, San Diego finally solved a centuries old mystery of how seeds, dormant in the soil know how to push through layers of ash and scorched earth after a forest fire.
Ecologists solve mystery of how seeds rise from ashes after forest fire
A new study from Ron Evans's lab suggests that a synthetic form of vitamin D called calcipotriol (a drug already approved by the FDA for the treatment of psoriasis) could be a potential new therapy for liver fibrosis. "Because there are currently no effective drugs for liver fibrosis, we believe our findings would open a new door for treatment," says Evans.
Vitamin D could be powerful weapon in fight against liver fibrosis
Terry Sejnowski has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation's most prestigious honorary societies. He is the 12th scientist from Salk to be inducted into the academy and will share the honor with 198 new members of the 2013 class that include Nobel Prize winner Bruce A. Beutler, philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, astronaut John Glenn, actor Robert De Niro and singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen.
The academy selected Sejnowski and the other new Fellows as a result of their preeminent contributions to their disciplines and society at large. The honorees will be formally inducted into the academy on October 12, 2013 at its headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Read more>>
Fred Gage was named this year's winner of the George A. Miller Prize in Cognitive Neuroscience, presented by the James S. McDonnell Foundation. Recipients of the honor are acknowledged for a career of "distinguished and sustained scholarship and research at the cutting-edge of cognitive neuroscience," and for "extraordinary innovation and high impact on international scientific thinking." Gage delivered the George A. Miller Lecture on April 13, at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, which established the prestigious award in 1995 to honor Miller, whose many theoretical advances greatly influenced the discipline of cognitive neuroscience.
|Question of the Month |
This tiny seedling has the potential to help our scientists unlock some of Mother Nature's most puzzling mysteries. What is this unassuming plant?
What is it about this plant that makes it a model organism for study?
Post your answer to our Facebook page:
One randomly chosen winner from the entries with the correct answer will win a special memento of Salk merchandise. (Your choice of a t-shirt or hat.)
Thank you to everyone who participated in last month's question of the month! Our lucky winner is Steven Allen. He correctly identified the brightly illuminated neurons in Ed Callaway's fantastic image. Congratulations, Steven! Let's keep the answers coming!
41st Annual Tax Seminar for Private Foundations
May 15-17, 2013
Cell Cycle Meeting
June 19-22, 2013
Mechanisms and Models
August 7-10, 2013
Save the Date!
Symphony at Salk
August 24, 2013
Each month our featured image will provide a shot of art and science. Download the image and use it as your computer desktop wallpaper, smartphone background or facebook timeline photo. Download>>