New target identified for treatment of premature aging disease
LA JOLLA—A stretch of DNA that hops around the human genome plays a role in premature aging disorders, scientists at the Salk Institute and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia have discovered. In people with early aging, or progeria, RNA encoded by this mobile DNA builds up inside cells. What’s more, the scientists found that blocking this RNA reverses the disease in mice.
Salk researchers discover how RNA processing goes awry in rare immune disease
LA JOLLA—Researchers at the Salk Institute and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia have discovered a new underlying cause of Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, a rare genetic disease that leads to bleeding and immune deficiencies in babies. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Communications on June 25, 2022, revolve around how cells cut and paste strands of RNA in a process called RNA splicing. The genetic mutations associated with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, they found, disrupt this process which, in turn, prevents numerous immune and anti-inflammatory proteins from being made correctly.
Cellular regeneration therapy restores damaged liver tissue faster than ever
LA JOLLA—Mammals can’t typically regenerate organs as efficiently as other vertebrates, such as fish and lizards. Now, Salk scientists have found a way to partially reset liver cells to more youthful states—allowing them to heal damaged tissue at a faster rate than previously observed. The results, published in Cell Reports on April 26, 2022, reveal that the use of reprogramming molecules can improve cell growth, leading to better liver tissue regeneration in mice.
Cellular rejuvenation therapy safely reverses signs of aging in mice
LA JOLLA—Age may be just a number, but it’s a number that often carries unwanted side effects, from brittle bones and weaker muscles to increased risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Now, scientists at the Salk Institute, in collaboration with Genentech, a member of the Roche group, have shown that they can safely and effectively reverse the aging process in middle-aged and elderly mice by partially resetting their cells to more youthful states.
Salk Institute announces departure of Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute announced today that Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a world-renowned researcher who has pioneered innovations in developmental biology, regenerative medicine and aging research at the Salk Institute, will be closing his Salk laboratory to join Altos Labs, a newly created life sciences company centered on human health research. Izpisua Belmonte, who has been at Salk for nearly thirty years, will depart to lead the San Diego division of Altos Institutes of Science to study cellular rejuvenation programming with the goal of improving human health.
Research advances one step closer to stem cell therapy for type 1 diabetes
LA JOLLA—Type 1 diabetes, which arises when the pancreas doesn’t create enough insulin to control levels of glucose in the blood, is a disease that currently has no cure and is difficult for most patients to manage. Scientists at the Salk Institute are developing a promising approach for treating it: using stem cells to create insulin-producing cells (called beta cells) that could replace nonfunctional pancreatic cells.
New study shows how to boost muscle regeneration and rebuild tissue
LA JOLLA—One of the many effects of aging is loss of muscle mass, which contributes to disability in older people. To counter this loss, scientists at the Salk Institute are studying ways to accelerate the regeneration of muscle tissue, using a combination of molecular compounds that are commonly used in stem-cell research.
Chimeric tool advanced for wide range of regenerative medicine, biomedical research applications
LA JOLLA—The ability to grow the cells of one species within an organism of a different species offers scientists a powerful tool for research and medicine. It’s an approach that could advance our understanding of early human development, disease onset and progression and aging; provide innovative platforms for drug evaluation; and address the critical need for transplantable organs. Yet developing such capabilities has been a formidable challenge.
Fast, portable test can diagnose COVID-19 and track variants
LA JOLLA—Clinicians using a new viral screening test can not only diagnose COVID-19 in a matter of minutes with a portable, pocket-sized machine, but can also simultaneously test for other viruses—like influenza—that might be mistaken for the coronavirus. At the same time, they can sequence the virus, providing valuable information on the spread of COVID-19 mutations and variants. The new test, dubbed NIRVANA, was described online today by a multi-institution team of scientists in the journal Med.
Salk researchers accelerate, expand COVID-19 research
LA JOLLA—As the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the globe, the Salk Institute joins in efforts to understand the fundamental science behind the novel coronavirus to pave the way to treatments and cures. COVID-19 exploits a vulnerability in the immune system’s armor: because the SARS-CoV-2 virus—the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19—appeared in humans recently, our immune systems have no experience with the virus—and sometimes have difficulty fighting it.
Eat less, live longer
LA JOLLA—If you want to reduce levels of inflammation throughout your body, delay the onset of age-related diseases and live longer—eat less food. That’s the conclusion of a new study by scientists from the US and China that provides the most detailed report to date of the cellular effects of a calorie-restricted diet in rats. While the benefits of caloric restriction have long been known, the new results show how this restriction can protect against aging in cellular pathways, as detailed in Cell on February 27, 2020.
The first roadmap for ovarian aging
LA JOLLA—Due to the modern tendency to postpone childbirth until later in life, a growing number of women are experiencing issues with infertility. Infertility likely stems from age-related decline of the ovaries, but the molecular mechanisms that lead to this decline have been unclear. Now, scientists from the U.S. and China have discovered, in unprecedented detail, how ovaries age in non-human primates. The findings, published in Cell on January 30, 2020, reveal several genes that could be used as biomarkers and point to therapeutic targets for diagnosing and treating female infertility and age-associated ovarian diseases, such as ovarian cancer, in humans.
Drug combo reverses arthritis in rats
LA JOLLA—People with osteoarthritis, or “wear and tear” arthritis, have limited treatment options: pain relievers or joint replacement surgery. Now, Salk researchers have discovered that a powerful combination of two experimental drugs reverses the cellular and molecular signs of osteoarthritis in rats as well as in isolated human cartilage cells. Their results were published in the journal Protein & Cell on January 16, 2020.
Eight Salk professors named among most highly cited researchers in the world
LA JOLLA—Salk Professors Joanne Chory, Joseph Ecker, Ronald Evans, Rusty Gage, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, Terrence Sejnowski, Reuben Shaw and Kay Tye have been named to the Highly Cited Researchers list by Clarivate Analytics. The list selects researchers for demonstrating “significant and broad influence” reflected by the production of multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1 percent by citations for field and year.
Unlocking the black box of embryonic development
LA JOLLA—Little is known about the molecular and cellular events that occur during early embryonic development in primate species. Now, an internationally renowned team of scientists in China and the United States has created a method to allow primate embryos to grow in the laboratory longer than ever before, enabling the researchers to obtain molecular details of key developmental processes for the first time. This research, while done in nonhuman primate cells, can have direct implications for early human development.
Stem cell study offers new way to study early development and pregnancy
LA JOLLA—Although graduating from school, a first job and marriage can be important events in life, some of the most significant events happen far earlier: in the first few days after a sperm fertilizes an egg and the cell begins to divide.
A novel technology for genome-editing a broad range of mutations in live organisms
LA JOLLA—The ability to edit genes in living organisms offers the opportunity to treat a plethora of inherited diseases. However, many types of gene-editing tools are unable to target critical areas of DNA, and creating such a technology has been difficult as living tissue contains diverse types of cells.
Putting the brakes on aging
LA JOLLA—Aging is a leading risk factor for a number of debilitating conditions, including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, to name a few. This makes the need for anti-aging therapies all the more urgent. Now, Salk Institute researchers have developed a new gene therapy to help decelerate the aging process.
Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte one of TIME magazine’s “50 Most Influential People in Health Care” for 2018
LA JOLLA—Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory, has been named one of TIME magazine’s 50 most influential people in healthcare for his scientific innovations in addressing the shortage of human organs for transplant. The list, which is curated by TIME’s health reporters and editors, recognizes people who changed the state of healthcare in America this year, and bear watching for what they do next.
The alchemy of healing: researchers turn open wounds into skin
LA JOLLA—Plastic surgery to treat large cutaneous ulcers, including those seen in people with severe burns, bedsores or chronic diseases such as diabetes, may someday be a thing of the past. Scientists at the Salk Institute have developed a technique to directly convert the cells in an open wound into new skin cells. The approach relies on reprogramming the cells to a stem-cell-like state and could be useful for healing skin damage, countering the effects of aging and helping us to better understand skin cancer.
Salk scientists modify CRISPR to epigenetically treat diabetes, kidney disease, muscular dystrophy
LA JOLLA—Salk scientists have created a new version of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology that allows them to activate genes without creating breaks in the DNA, potentially circumventing a major hurdle to using gene editing technologies to treat human diseases.
Early gene-editing success holds promise for preventing inherited diseases
LA JOLLA—Scientists have, for the first time, corrected a disease-causing mutation in early stage human embryos with gene editing. The technique, which uses the CRISPR-Cas9 system, corrected the mutation for a heart condition at the earliest stage of embryonic development so that the defect would not be passed on to future generations.
Novel tool confers targeted, stable editing of epigenome in human stem cells
LA JOLLA—(May 4, 2017) Salk Institute scientists have developed a novel technology to correct disease-causing aberrations in the chemical tags on DNA that affect how genes are expressed. These types of chemical modifications, collectively referred to as epigenetics or the epigenome, are increasingly being considered as important as the genomic sequence itself in development and disease.
Identical twins; not-so-identical stem cells
LA JOLLA—Salk scientists and collaborators have shed light on a longstanding question about what leads to variation in stem cells by comparing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from identical twins. Even iPSCs made from the cells of twins, they found, have important differences, suggesting that not all variation between iPSC lines is rooted in genetics, since the twins have identical genes.
Salk scientists expand ability of stem cells to regrow any tissue type
LA JOLLA—When scientists talk about laboratory stem cells being totipotent or pluripotent, they mean that the cells have the potential, like an embryo, to develop into any type of tissue in the body. What totipotent stem cells can do that pluripotent ones can’t do, however, is develop into tissues that support the embryo, like the placenta. These are called extra-embryonic tissues, and are vital in development and healthy growth.
New findings highlight promise of chimeric organisms for science and medicine
LA JOLLA—Rapid advances in the ability to grow cells, tissues and organs of one species within an organism of a different species offer an unprecedented opportunity for tackling longstanding scientific mysteries and addressing pressing human health problems, particularly the need for transplantable organs and tissues.
Turning back time: Salk scientists reverse signs of aging
LA JOLLA—Graying hair, crow’s feet, an injury that’s taking longer to heal than when we were 20—faced with the unmistakable signs of aging, most of us have had a least one fantasy of turning back time. Now, scientists at the Salk Institute have found that intermittent expression of genes normally associated with an embryonic state can reverse the hallmarks of old age.
New gene-editing technology partially restores vision in blind animals
LA JOLLA—Salk Institute researchers have discovered a holy grail of gene editing—the ability to, for the first time, insert DNA at a target location into the non-dividing cells that make up the majority of adult organs and tissues. The technique, which the team showed was able to partially restore visual responses in blind rodents, will open new avenues for basic research and a variety of treatments, such as for retinal, heart and neurological diseases.
Salk professor awarded multimillion dollar NIH Pioneer Award for innovations in cell biology
LA JOLLA—Salk Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte has been awarded a 2016 National Institutes of Health Pioneer Award, a highly coveted grant that supports the most innovative biomedical research, for his work in stem cell biology and regeneration.
New method creates endless supply of kidney precursor cells
LA JOLLA—Salk Institute scientists have discovered the holy grail of endless youthfulness—at least when it comes to one type of human kidney precursor cell. Previous attempts to maintain cultures of the so-called nephron progenitor cells often failed, as the cells died or gradually lost their developmental potential rather than staying in a more medically useful precursor state.
Stem cells move one step closer to cure for genetic diseases
LA JOLLA–Healthy brain, muscle, eye and heart cells would improve the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world with debilitating mitochondrial diseases. Now, researchers at the Salk Institute have gotten one step closer to making such cures a reality: they’ve turned cells from patients into healthy, mutation-free stem cells that can then become any cell type. The new approach is described July 15, 2015 in Nature.
New stem cell may overcome hurdles for regenerative medicine
LA JOLLA–Scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered a novel type of pluripotent stem cell–cells capable of developing into any type of tissue–whose identity is tied to their location in a developing embryo. This contrasts with stem cells traditionally used in scientific study, which are characterized by their time-related stage of development.
Scientists discover key driver of human aging
LA JOLLA–A study tying the aging process to the deterioration of tightly packaged bundles of cellular DNA could lead to methods of preventing and treating age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, as detailed April 30, 2015, in Science.
Gene-editing technique offers hope for hereditary diseases
LA JOLLA–For thousands of women around the globe carrying a mitochondrial disease, having a healthy child can be a gamble. This set of diseases affect mitochondria, tiny powerhouses that generate energy in the body’s cells and are passed exclusively from mother to child.
Cellular scissors chop up HIV virus
LA JOLLA–Imagine a single drug that could prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, treat patients who have already contracted HIV, and even remove all the dormant copies of the virus from those with the more advanced disease. It sounds like science fiction, but Salk scientists have gotten one step closer to creating such a drug by customizing a powerful defense system used by many bacteria and training this scissor-like machinery to recognize the HIV virus.
Salk scientists discover a key to mending broken hearts
LA JOLLA–Researchers at the Salk Institute have healed injured hearts of living mice by reactivating long dormant molecular machinery found in the animals’ cells, a finding that could help pave the way to new therapies for heart disorders in humans.
Simple method turns human skin cells into immune-fighting white blood cells
LA JOLLA—For the first time, scientists have turned human skin cells into transplantable white blood cells, soldiers of the immune system that fight infections and invaders. The work, done at the Salk Institute, could let researchers create therapies that introduce into the body new white blood cells capable of attacking diseased or cancerous cells or augmenting immune responses against other disorders.
No extra mutations in modified stem cells, study finds
LA JOLLA—The ability to switch out one gene for another in a line of living stem cells has only crossed from science fiction to reality within this decade. As with any new technology, it brings with it both promise—the hope of fixing disease-causing genes in humans, for example—as well as questions and safety concerns. Now, Salk scientists have put one of those concerns to rest: using gene-editing techniques on stem cells doesn’t increase the overall occurrence of mutations in the cells. The new results were published July 3, 2014 in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
Salk scientists for the first time generate “mini-kidney” structures from human stem cells
LA JOLLA, CA—Diseases affecting the kidneys represent a major and unsolved health issue worldwide. The kidneys rarely recover function once they are damaged by disease, highlighting the urgent need for better knowledge of kidney development and physiology.
Salk scientists discover more versatile approach to creating stem cells
LA JOLLA, CA—Stem cells are key to the promise of regenerative medicine: the repair or replacement of injured tissues with custom grown substitutes. Essential to this process are induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which can be created from a patient’s own tissues, thus eliminating the risk of immune rejection. However, Shinya Yamanaka’s formula for iPSCs, for which he was awarded last year’s Nobel Prize, uses a strict recipe that allows for limited variations in human cells, restricting their full potential for clinical application.
Salk scientists develop faster, safer method for producing stem cells
LA JOLLA, CA—A new method for generating stem cells from mature cells promises to boost stem cell production in the laboratory, helping to remove a barrier to regenerative medicine therapies that would replace damaged or unhealthy body tissues.
Neurons derived from cord blood cells may represent new therapeutic option
LA JOLLA, CA—For more than 20 years, doctors have been using cells from blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after childbirth to treat a variety of illnesses, from cancer and immune disorders to blood and metabolic diseases.
Salk researchers develop safe way to repair sickle cell disease genes
LA JOLLA, CA—Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have developed a way to use patients’ own cells to potentially cure sickle cell disease and many other disorders caused by mutations in a gene that helps produce blood hemoglobin.
Editing scrambled genes in human stem cells may help realize the promise of combined stem cell-gene therapy
LA JOLLA, CA—In principle, genetic engineering is simple, but in practice, replacing a faulty gene with a healthy copy is anything but. Using mutated versions of the lamin A gene as an example to demonstrate the versatility of their virus-based approach, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies successfully edited a diseased gene in patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells as well as adult stem cells.
LA JOLLA, CA—The current pace of population aging is without parallel in human history but surprisingly little is known about the human aging process, because lifespans of eight decades or more make it difficult to study. Now, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies replicated premature aging in the lab, allowing them to study ageing-related disease in a dish.
Zebrafish study with human heart implications: Cellular grown-ups outperform stem cells in cardiac repair
LA JOLLA, CA—Bony fish like the tiny zebrafish have a remarkable ability that mammals can only dream of: if you lop off a chunk of their heart they swim sluggishly for a few days but within a month appear perfectly normal. How they accomplish this—or, more importantly, why we can’t—is one of the significant questions in regenerative medicine today.
Unraveling the mechanisms behind organ regeneration in zebrafish
LA JOLLA, CA—The search for the holy grail of regenerative medicine—the ability to “grow back” a perfect body part when one is lost to injury or disease—has been under way for years, yet the steps involved in this seemingly magic process are still poorly understood.
Umbilical cord blood as a readily available source for off-the-shelf, patient-specific stem cells
LA JOLLA, CA—Umbilical cord blood cells can successfully be reprogrammed to function like embryonic stem cells, setting the basis for the creation of a comprehensive bank of tissue-matched, cord blood-derived induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells for off-the-shelf applications, report researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Center for Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona, Spain.
Tumor suppressor pulls double shift as reprogramming watchdog
LA JOLLA, CA—A collaborative study by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies uncovered that the tumor suppressor p53, which made its name as “guardian of the genome,” not only stops cells that could become cancerous in their tracks but also controls somatic cell reprogramming.
Genetic Re-disposition: Combined stem cell-gene therapy approach cures human genetic disease in vitro
La Jolla, CA—A study led by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has catapulted the field of regenerative medicine significantly forward, proving in principle that a human genetic disease can be cured using a combination of gene therapy and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell technology. The study, published in the May 31, 2009 early online edition of Nature, is a major milestone on the path from the laboratory to the clinic.
Salk Receives $6.6 Million Grant to Develop Stem Cell-Based Treatments for Incurable Diseases
La Jolla, CA — The Salk Institute for Biological Studies has been awarded a $6.6 million grant – the largest single award in the latest competition — by the California Institute Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) for research aimed at translating basic science into clinical cures. The funds are part of $67.7 million Early Translational Grants CIRM provided to 15 research organizations on Wednesday.
Salk researchers successfully reprogram keratinocytes attached to a single hair
The first reports of the successful reprogramming of adult human cells back into so-called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which by all appearances looked and acted liked embryonic stem cells created a media stir. But the process was woefully inefficient: Only one out of 10,000 cells could be persuaded to turn back the clock.
Starting over: Wnt reactivates dormant limb regeneration program
La Jolla, CA – Chop off a salamander’s leg and a brand new one will sprout in no time. But most animals have lost the ability to replace missing limbs. Now, a research team at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has been able to regenerate a wing in a chick embryo – a species not known to be able to regrow limbs – suggesting that the potential for such regeneration exists innately in all vertebrates, including humans.
In early embryos, cilia get the message across
La Jolla, CA – Having your heart in the right place usually means having it located on the left side of your body. But just how a perfectly symmetrical embryo settles on what’s right and what’s left has fascinated developmental biologists for a long time. The turning point came when the rotational beating of cilia, hair-like structures found on most cells, was identified as essential to the process.
Finding a cellular Neverland: How stem cells stay childlike
La Jolla, CA – Despite their celebrated “immortality,” the capacity of embryonic stem (ES) cells for endless division has its limits. After a very extended childhood spent dividing in a culture dish, even stem cells tend to grow up and assume adult roles as workaday nerve, muscle, or blood cells, never to return to their youthful state.
The ultimate spa: embryonic body wash controls left-right development
La Jolla, CA – Humans and other animals may appear to be symmetrical on the outside, but symmetry is only skin deep. Many body organs, such as the stomach, the heart and the liver, are tipped to the right or left side. So how does the developing embryo distinguish left from right? Salk scientists have now discovered that the foundations for the basic left-right body plan are laid by a microscopic ‘pump’ on the outer surface of the embryo’s underside that wafts chemical messengers over to the left side of the body. This sets up a chemical concentration gradient that tells stem cells how and where to develop. The remarkable findings, including movie footage of the ‘pump,’ are published in the May 20th edition of the journal Cell.
Vitamin A’s paradoxical role in influencing symmetry during embryonic development revealed by Salk Institute scientists
La Jolla, CA – In this week’s journal Nature, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies report that they have solved one of the ‘holy grail’ puzzles of developmental biology: the existence of a mechanism that insures that the exterior of our bodies is symmetrical while inner organs are arranged asymmetrically.
Novel Genetic Pathway Tells Developing Body Organs to Get In Line
La Jolla, CA – Scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered a novel genetic pathway that ensures body organs develop correctly and in the right position during embryonic development. The discovery has important implications for stem cell medicine, which continues to face the challenge of inducing stem cells to form new organs.
Salk Study Uncovers New Information About Organ Placement
La Jolla, CA – A Salk Institute team of biologists, mathematicians, and physicists has uncovered a novel paradigm for cell communication that provides new insights into the complex question of how the body determines where organs are placed.
Salk Scientists Find Genes That Control Limb Formation In Vertebrates
La Jolla, CA – Whether they’re wings, fins or legs, those appendages generally known as limbs play a critical role for lifting, grasping, moving and other activities needed to sustain life.
Vitamin A Shown To Be Critical For Heart Location In Vertebrate Animals
La Jolla, CA – To make sure your heart’s in the right place, you need to add just the right amount of vitamin A.
Gene Switches Wing To Leg, Salk Scientists Find
La Jolla, CA – A single gene can transform embryonic tissue destined to form a wing into a leg instead, Salk Institute investigators have found. Their studies were performed in chickens, and the gene, called Tbx4 , appears to be involved in limb formation in mammals as well, including humans.
Gene that determines left from right in vertebrate embryos found by Salk-led team
La Jolla, CA – In a developing organism, knowledge of right from left can often mean the difference between life and death. Certainly, the direction and ultimate destination in which an embryonic heart, lung, stomach or liver travels can be critical for the proper alignment of blood vessels and nerves so that normal life may proceed. Now, a team led by scientists at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies has discovered a molecular guide, in the form of a single gene, that helps youthful cells, tissues and organs decide in which direction to take their first fateful steps–whether to go left or right.