Salk Central this month: May 2015


Scientific Home Run


The lab of Salk Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte has achieved a "home run" of scientific prestige with three remarkable papers published in top-tier journals two weeks apart. All three discoveries garnered international attention and two of them were featured on the front pages of the UT-San Diego newspaper. 

By studying Werners syndrome, the team found that the aging process for humans is tied to the deterioration of tightly packaged bundles of cellular DNA. This discovery, detailed April 30 in Science, could eventually lead to methods of preventing and treating age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. 

SELECT MEDIA COVERAGE: TIMEWashington PostHealthline

On May 6 in Nature, the team developed the first reliable method for integrating human stem cells into nonviable mouse embryos in a laboratory dish in such a way that the human cells began to differentiate into early-stage tissues.

SELECT MEDIA COVERAGE: Scientific American, The Verge, Yahoo! News


Last month's newsletter featured the third discovery, published April 23 in Cell. In that study, the scientists discovered a method of preventing the transmission of mitochondrial disease in mice using gene editing technologies. 


Salk News

Vital Step in Stem Cell Growth Revealed


From left: Kathy Jones and Conchi Estarás

Stem cells, which have the potential to turn into any kind of cell, offer the tantalizing possibility of generating new tissues for organ replacements, stroke victims and patients of many other diseases. Now, Professor Kathy Jonesteam has uncovered details about stem cell growth that could help improve regenerative therapies. The new work also reveals more about certain cancers that arise when these processes go astray, in particular, colon cancer.

Brain cells capable of "early-career" switch

Scientists in the lab of Professor Dennis O'Leary discovered how a single molecule can make mature neurons switch functions. For example, the molecule can prompt a neuron originally destined to process sound to instead process vision.
The finding, reported May 11, 2015 in PNAS, will help neuroscientists better understand how brain architecture is molecularly encoded and may point to ways to prevent or treat human disorders (such as autism) that feature substantial brain structure abnormalities.


PRESS RELEASE AND IMAGE GALLERY: Scientists find a single molecule that controls the fate of mature sensory neurons 

SELECT MEDIA COVERAGE: New Scientist, Gizmodo 


Salk neuroscience research featured in The New Yorker


Image courtesy of Nicholas Wall
In a special package on the brain, 
The New Yorker focuses on pioneering work by Ed Callaway and his Salk colleagues in developing a technique for tracing connections between neurons using a modified rabies virus. Read the story, "The Brighter Side of Rabies."




Scholarly societies honor Salk professors

Joanne Chory, director of Salk's Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Lab, has been elected to the prestigious American Philosophical Society (APS), which promotes useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities. She was recognized for her pioneering work including the use of molecular genetics to study how plants respond to their environment. READ MORE » 


Vicki Lundblad, the Becky and Ralph S. O'Connor Chair and professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Lab, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences for her quest to understand how the ends of chromosomes determine how many times a cell can divide. She joins 13 Salk faculty members admitted to the academy, one of the highest honors bestowed upon scientists in the United States. READ MORE » 


Ronald Evans, director of the Gene Expression Lab, has received the 2015 Frontiers in Science Award for his extensive work on nuclear receptors and hormone signaling. READ MORE » 


Third Annual Salk Alumni Mixer


Tuesday, June 9
Reception: 6:00 p.m.
Dinner: 7:00 p.m.

Maya Ridinger - Salk Alumni-Faculty Fellow 2014
Maya Ridinger - Salk Alumni-Faculty Fellow 2014

Salk alumni will have the chance to network and catch up with former Salk colleagues and faculty during the third annual Salk Alumni Mixer on June 9. The reception and dinner begins at 6:00 p.m. and will feature Salk trustee and alumnus Richard Heyman. This year's fellowship recipient, Maya Ridinger, a research associate in Geoffrey Wahl's Gene Expression Laboratory, will also be recognized. The Alumni-Faculty Fellowship Fund has been established as a way for today's leaders to help the next generation of scientists at Salk.


To learn more about Alumni activities please visit

Upcoming Events




Brubeck Brothers Quartet & Satchin Panda

Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium

Salk Institute

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Salk science image for your desktop, tablet or smartphone

Decorate your devices with some of the most intriguing images from the Salk Institute! 

An embryonic mouse forebrain shows the genetically modified neurons in the neocortex (orange/yellow). Cortical stem cells and neurons in other brain regions remain unaltered.
---- Courtesy of the O'Leary Lab

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