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May 2016

Tiny microscopes reveal hidden role of nervous system cells

New Insight Into Pain Sensation
New and improved miniaturized microscopes and related imaging methods, developed by Axel Nimmerjahn's lab, are giving scientists a new window into the everyday activity of cells within the spinal cord. The innovative technology revealed that astrocytes----cells in the nervous system that do not conduct electrical signals and were traditionally viewed as merely supportive----unexpectedly react to intense sensation, as detailed in Nature Communications.

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From left: Xinde Zheng, Tony Hunter,
Leah Boyer, Rusty Gage
Tamping down neurons' energy use could treat neurodegenerations

Scientists led by Tony Hunter and Rusty Gage showed how an FDA-approved drug called rapamycin prolongs the survival of diseased neurons by forcing them to reduce protein production to conserve cellular energy. While rapamycin has been shown to extend lifespan and reduce symptoms in a broad range of diseases, the new Salk research suggests that rapamycin could also target the neural damage associated with Leigh syndrome, (a rare genetic disease) and other forms of neurodegeneration. The work was published in eLife.
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From left: Tiago Goncalves, Rusty Gage
Adult brain prunes branched connections of new neurons

When tweaking its architecture, the adult brain works like a sculptor----starting with more than it needs so it can carve away the excess to achieve the perfect design. That's the conclusion of a new study from Rusty Gage's lab that tracked developing cells in an adult mouse brain in real time. The observation, described in Nature Neuroscience, suggests that new cells in the adult brain have more in common with those in the embryonic brain than scientists previously thought and could have implications for understanding diseases including autism, intellectual disabilities and schizophrenia.
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Reuben Shaw_ Nathan Young
From left: Reuben Shaw, Nathan Young
Cell's "fuel gauge" promotes healthy development

Reuben Shaw's lab revealed how a cellular fuel gauge responsible for monitoring and managing cells' energy processes has an unexpected role in development.

This cellular fuel gauge is a protein complex called AMPK that oversees energy input and output to keep the cell running smoothly. Previously, Shaw discovered that AMPK could halt tumors' revved-up metabolism. The new work, published in Genes & Development, shows how AMPK is involved in the development of an organism and tied to cellular recycling components. Aside from giving new insight into stem cell therapies, the discovery could help researchers better understand cancer and diabetes pathways.
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Salk promotes four leading scientists in the fields of neuroscience, circadian rhythms and immunology
Satchidananda Panda            Sreekanth Chalasani               Björn Lillemeier                        Ye Zheng
Satchidananda Panda has been promoted to the rank of full professor and Sreekanth Chalasani, Björn Lillemeier and Ye Zheng were promoted to associate professors after the latest round of faculty reviews determined they are scientific leaders who have made original, innovative and notable contributions to biological research.
Join us for Breakthrough Biomedical Philanthropy
Salk hosts first philanthropy summit
Curing cancer, funding STEM education and forging frontiers in neuroscience were among the topics examined in-depth during the inaugural Breakthrough Biomedical Philanthropy held earlier this month at the Salk Institute. The two-day summit drew science and philanthropy thought leaders from around the country to share their expertise on how to leverage giving to produce the most significant return on investment in finding cures for cancer and other diseases.
Highlights of the new program----which has its roots in another popular Salk offering, the former Tax Seminar----included keynote addresses by Salk President Elizabeth Blackburn and Salk Trustee Ted Waitt. Participants included The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation, the H.A. and Mary K. Chapman Charitable Trust, The Maximilian E. and Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, Inc., The Althea Foundation, the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, Inc., and The Anderson Foundation.
To learn more about Breakthrough Biomedical Philanthropy and get on the list for next year's forum, contact Laura Pruyn at (858) 453-4100 x2050 or
Save the date: Salk Alumni Mixer - May 25
Ting Fu
Ting Fu

Institute alumni are invited to reconnect with friends, network with prospective employees and visit with faculty during the annual Salk Alumni Mixer at 6:00 p.m. May 25 in the Foyer. Former Verma Lab postdoc Mei Huei Lai will talk about her work at Lilly Research Laboratories, and current Evans Lab research associate Ting Fu will be introduced as this year's Alumni-Faculty Fellowship recipient.

To learn more about the Salk Alumni Mixer and register to attend, contact Makena Diaz at (858) 453-4100 x1201 or
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Symphonic summer - August 20

Preparations for the 21st annual Symphony at Salk are revving into high gear. Tickets for the August 20 concert under the stars with the incomparable San Diego Symphony conducted by Maestro Thomas Wilkins go on sale in early July. Further details----like the identity of this year's guest artist----will be revealed soon!
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Salk gears up for Padres Pedal the Cause '16

The Salk Institute and three other local research centers have received $1.3 million in grant funding from Padres Pedal the Cause, a cycling event to fund innovative cancer research. Salk faculty members Tony Hunter and Reuben Shaw joined peers from Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and Rady Children's Hospital at a check presentation ceremony last month at Rady's. The money represents the total raised by riders, donors, volunteers and sponsors involved in the 2015 Pedal the Cause ride.

Team SCC, Salk's Cancer Center cycling group, is preparing for the fourth annual fundraising ride----rebranded this year as Padres Pedal the Cause----on November 12 and 13 with courses of varying lengths and challenges that begin and end at Petco Park in downtown San Diego.

To learn more about Padres Pedal the Cause, contact Jamie Simon at (858) 453-4100 x1121 or jsimon@salk.eduMore information available at
Inside Salk: Just a click away

The spring issue of Inside Salk has a lot to love: tactile pages, vibrant art and crackling copy, including a Q&A with new Salk President Elizabeth Blackburn.
If you can't part with paper, you can still sign up for this and future issues of Inside Salk's print version.


May Wallpaper image
Courtesy of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Salk science

Download some amazing Salk science images for your smartphone, tablet or desktop. 

By genetically engineering new neurons to fluoresce green, researchers were able to see when the new cells grew and branched surrounded by other cell nuclei (blue) in the brain.


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Salk Institute | 10010 N Torrey Pines Rd | La Jolla | CA | 92037