September 2016
Elizabeth Blackburn_ PhD

As Salk science continues to make headlines, it is my pleasure to touch on some of the media highlights of the past few weeks.

Among recent developments, Salk's Rusty Gage and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine are co-leading a $15 million initiative to unravel bipolar  disorder and schizophrenia. Research from this federal --- academic --- industry collaboration is being funded by the National Cooperative Reprogrammed Cell Research Groups program, which was introduced by the National Institute of Mental Health in 2013 to bring together experts in the fields of stem cells and neuropsychiatric disorders.

In other news, Kuo-Fen Lee and his team have found that boosting protein levels in the brain improves memory and alleviates symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Another Alzheimer's related revelation came from Alan Saghatelian's team when they discovered why people with the ApoE4 gene are more susceptible to the disease. In Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte's lab, researchers have hit on a successful method for creating an endless supply of kidney precursor cells. Meanwhile, researchers in the lab of Xin Jin have found a new avenue to study long-standing questions about how the striatum controls movement in healthy and diseased brains. And lastly, Reuben Shaw's team has discovered how a new drug disrupts the lipid synthesis process to stifle tumor progression and points to a powerful new method for tackling cancer.

Noteworthy Institute events include the first concert of the Salk Science & Music Series' fourth season on Sunday, October 2 (you can still purchase tickets at And the popular Salk Women & Science program presents its fall offering --- this time, a look at Salk's core facilities --- on October 5 in the Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium. I hope I've sufficiently piqued your interest to read on and learn more.
Yours in Discovery, 
Elizabeth Blackburn 
Targeting fat to treat cancer
Fat isn't just something we eat: it may also lie at the heart of a new approach to treating cancer. Cells create their own fat molecules to build critical cellular structures. Now, Reuben Shaw's lab, along with academic and industry collaborators, has found a way to obstruct this instrumental process to selectively stifle cancer's growth, detailed September 19, 2016 in Nature Medicine.

KUSI logo

Johns Hopkins and Salk co-lead $15 million initiative to unravel bipolar disorder and schizophrenia

Rusty Gage, along with Johns Hopkins researchers, is spearheading a multi-institution effort to develop new ways of studying and screening drugs for major psychiatric illnesses. The consortium, which is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, will use samples from patients to improve upon induced pluripotent stem cell technology and observe how specific types of brain cells are affected by the diseases and how they respond to drug candidates. Once a reliable test system has been developed, industry partners will use it to identify or develop drugs that might combat mental illness.

NBC 7 San Diego logo
SD Business Journal logo

Kogo logo

Elevating brain protein allays symptoms of Alzheimer's and improves memory

From left_ Jiqing Xu and Kuo-Fen Lee
From left: Jiqing Xu and Kuo-Fen Lee
Kuo-Fen Lee's lab has found that boosting levels of a specific protein in the brain alleviates hallmark features of Alzheimer's disease in a mouse model of the disorder. The protein, called neuregulin-1, has many forms and functions across the brain and is already a potential target for treating disorders, as detailed August 25, 2016 in Scientific Reports.


Science World Report logo
New method creates endless supply of kidney precursor cells

Zhongwei Li and Juan Carlos Izpisua
From left: Zhongwei Li and Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte
Researchers in the lab of Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte have discovered the holy grail of endless youthfulness----at least when it comes to one type of human kidney precursor cell. The team developed a technique that successfully suspended early kidney cells in their development. Such cells could be used to grow replacement kidney tissue in order to study the organ as well as treat disease. The work appeared in Cell Stem Cell on August 25, 2016.

Mirror logo

Medicaal Daily logo

News Medical logo

Salk scientists map brain's action center

From left_ Jason Klug_ Xin Jin and Jared Smith
From let: Jason Klug, Xin Jin and
Jared Smith
Xin Jin and colleagues are using cutting-edge genetic, electrophysiological, and neural-tracing strategies to delve into the anatomy and function of lesser-known forms of organization in the brain. Their study, published August 25, 2016 in the journal Neuron, unravels how particular cells in an area called the striatum receive a complex variety of information. This work could help better understand disorders such as Parkinson's disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder or addiction.

Huntington_s Disease News logo
Science Daily  logo

New mechanism discovered for Alzheimer's risk gene

Qian Chu_ Alan Saghatelian_ Cynthia Donaldson_ Joan Vaughan and Jolene Diedrich
From left: Qian Chu, Alan Saghatelian, 
Cynthia Donaldson, Joan Vaughan and Jolene Diedrich
Alan Saghatelian's lab has identified a new connection between a gene called ApoE4 and protein build-up associated with Alzheimer's. Previous reports have suggested that ApoE4 may affect how the brain clears out protein clusters called beta-amyloid plaques, but what was happening at the molecular level wasn't clear. The lab has pinpointed how an enzyme, HtrA1, degrades ApoE4, which can help researchers better test hypotheses about ApoE4's role in Alzheimer's. The findings appear in the August 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Times of India logo
The brain's stunning genomic diversity revealed

From left: Apua Paquola, Rusty Gage and Jennifer Erwin
Rusty Gage's lab showed how pieces of genomic material copy and paste themselves seemingly sporadically throughout DNA in brain cells. The team revealed that one type of jumping gene (called L1) can not only insert DNA but also remove large portions of it, resulting in much more genetic variation than previously thought. The team also examined how L1 variations influence a schizophrenia-associated gene called DLG2, providing insight into how these jumping genes could cause neurological diseases. The work was published in Nature Neuroscience on September 12, 2016.

Genome Web logo
Science Daily logo

Salk welcomes new trustee

Eric Sagerman
Eric Sagerman, a strategic advisor with broad financial, technology and healthcare experience, has joined the Salk Institute Board of Trustees. Most recently, he was CEO and president of the medical records company Universata. He has been a managing director and Head of Strategy and Strategic Marketing for Allianz Global Investors, and spent 16 years with American Express in a number of marketing and business management posts, both domestically and internationally. As senior vice president, he was involved in many growth and restructuring initiatives, including launching the Global Network Services business, the Corporate Card business and the Centurion "Black" Card.

Sagerman currently serves on the board of Teach for America, San Diego and is a member of the Salk Institute Investment Committee. He earned a BA in economics from Tufts University and an MBA from the Amos Tuck School, Dartmouth College. He and his wife, Jane, live in La Jolla.

Patriotic professors

From left_ Lt. Col. Bob Sulier_ John Reynolds_ Geoff Wahl_ Sally Ganley
From left: Lt. Col. Bob Sulier, John Reynolds, Geoff Wahl and Sally Ganley
Salk faculty Geoffrey Wahl and John Reynolds have received a Patriotic Employer award in recognition of their support of Salk research administrative assistant Sally Ganley's service in the United States Army Reserves. As a reservist, Ganley, who works in the labs of both Wahl and Reynolds, attends a Battle Assembly one weekend a month and an annual 14-day training. In presenting the awards to Wahl and Reynolds, Lt. Col. Bob Sulier from the Army Reserve thanked them and members of their labs for supporting Ganley.

The Inside scoop

The latest edition of Inside Salk has landed, highlighting the promising developments in epigenetics research, the immune system's power to heal or harm, and other discoveries and news from around the Institute.

Interested in getting on our mailing list to receive the print version of Inside Salk?

The Salk Science & Music Series launches its fourth season with a concert by classical pianist Sa Chen at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, October 2 in the Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium. Comprising the science component of the afternoon, Salk Professor Greg Lemke of the Molecular Neurobiology Lab will discuss his research. For tickets and the entire six-concert schedule, visit or call (858) 587-0657.
To do big science, you need big technology. Three of Salk's women in science who specialize in the technology behind the breakthroughs will give an insider's view of the Institute's scientific core facilities from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on October 5 in the Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium at Salk. For more information, contact Betsy Collins at (858) 500-4883 or
Salk Science for download

Salk researchers created kidney progenitor cells that survive in the lab using 3D culture and a mix of supporting molecules. The technology could help point to new cell therapies.
Salk Institute 10010 N Torrey Pines Rd | La Jolla | CA | 92037 |