Press

Six Salk professors named among most highly cited researchers in the world

LA JOLLA—Salk Professors Joanne Chory, Joseph Ecker, Rusty Gage, Satchidananda Panda, Reuben Shaw and Kay Tye have been named to the Highly Cited Researchers list by Clarivate. The list identifies researchers who demonstrate “significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers.” Chory, Ecker and Gage have been named to this list every year since 2014, when the regular annual rankings began. This is Tye’s fifth, Shaw’s third and Panda’s first time receiving the designation. Additionally, Ecker appeared in two separate categories: “plant and animal science” and “molecular biology and genetics” and is one of 3.4 percent of researchers selected in two fields. Joseph Nery, a research assistant II in the Ecker lab, was also included on the list.

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Benefits of time-restricted eating depend on age and sex

LA JOLLA—Time-restricted eating (TRE), a dietary regimen that restricts eating to specific hours, has garnered increased attention in weight-loss circles. A new study by Salk scientists further shows that TRE confers multiple health benefits besides weight loss. The study also shows that these benefits may depend on sex and age.

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Salk Institute among cross-collaborative teams gifted $220 million by Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance

LA JOLLA—A Salk Institute team led by Professor Satchin Panda, along with teams from five other organizations, have been awarded a total of $220 million by the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation’s Human Performance Alliance, whose philanthropic investment aims to transform human health on a global scale through the discovery and translation of the biological principles underlying human performance.

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Salk Professors Satchin Panda and Tatyana Sharpee honored with endowed chairs

LA JOLLA—Professors Satchin Panda and Tatyana Sharpee have both been recognized for their contributions and dedication to advancing science through research by being named to endowed chairs at the Salk Institute.

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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.

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Three types of cells help the brain tell day from night

LA JOLLA—Bright light at night interrupts the body’s normal day-night cycles, called circadian rhythms, and can trigger insomnia. In fact, circadian rhythms play a major role in health. Disrupted day-night cycles have even been linked to increased incidence of diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity, depressive disorders and type 2 diabetes in people who work night shifts. Therefore, understanding how human eyes sense light could lead to “smart” lights that can prevent depression, foster sleep at night, and maintain healthy circadian rhythms.

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Clinical study finds eating within a 10-hour window may help stave off diabetes, heart disease

LA JOLLA—Metabolic syndrome affects nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population, and increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. But lifestyle interventions such as adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical exercise are difficult to maintain and, even when combined with medication, are often insufficient to fully manage the disease.

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Novel technique helps explain why bright light keeps us awake

LA JOLLA—In recent decades, scientists have learned a great deal about how different neurons connect and send signals to each other. But it’s been difficult to trace the activity of individual nerve fibers known as axons, some of which can extend from the tip of the toe to the head. Understanding these connections is important for figuring out how the brain receives and responds to signals from other parts of the body.

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Why screen time can disrupt sleep

LA JOLLA—For most, the time spent staring at screens—on computers, phones, iPads—constitutes many hours and can often disrupt sleep. Now, Salk Institute researchers have pinpointed how certain cells in the eye process ambient light and reset our internal clocks, the daily cycles of physiological processes known as the circadian rhythm. When these cells are exposed to artificial light late into the night, our internal clocks can get confused, resulting in a host of health issues.

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Eating in 10-hour window can override disease-causing genetic defects, nurture health

LA JOLLA—Scientists at the Salk Institute found that mice lacking the biological clocks thought to be necessary for a healthy metabolism could still be protected against obesity and metabolic diseases by having their daily access to food restricted to a 10-hour window.

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Depleting microbiome with antibiotics can affect glucose metabolism

LA JOLLA—A new study from the Salk Institute has found that mice that have their microbiomes depleted with antibiotics have decreased levels of glucose in their blood and better insulin sensitivity. The research has implications for understanding the role of the microbiome in diabetes. It also could lead to better insight into the side effects seen in people who are being treated with high levels of antibiotics. The study appeared in the journal Nature Communications on July 20, 2018.

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Salk and UC San Diego scientists receive $1.5 million to study firefighter health

LA JOLLA—We count on firefighters to protect us in life-threatening situations. So it’s in everyone’s best interest for them to be healthy and fit. Salk Institute and University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers have been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the Department of Homeland Security for a three-year study to see whether restricting food intake to a 10-hour window can improve firefighters’ well-being.

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Salk researchers discover how liver responds so quickly to food

LA JOLLA—Minutes after you eat a meal, as nutrients rush into your bloodstream, your body makes massive shifts in how it breaks down and stores fats and sugars. Within half an hour, your liver has made a complete switch, going from burning fat for energy to storing as much glucose, or sugar, as possible. But the speed at which this happens has flummoxed scientists—it’s too short a time span for the liver’s cells to activate genes and produce the RNA blueprints needed to assemble new proteins to guide metabolism.

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Timing is everything, to our genes

LA JOLLA—To everything there is a season. This saying applies to many human endeavors, but new research shows it’s even true on the molecular level. A Salk Institute study published in the journal Science on February 8, 2018, found that the activity of nearly 80 percent of genes follows a day/night rhythm in many tissue types and brain regions.

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Salk scientists curb growth of cancer cells by blocking access to key nutrients

LA JOLLA—Salk researchers have discovered how to curb the growth of cancer cells by blocking the cells’ access to certain nutrients. The approach, detailed in a new paper published today in Nature, took advantage of knowledge on how healthy cells use a 24-hour cycle to regulate the production of nutrients and was tested on glioblastoma brain tumors in mice.

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Salk promotes four leading scientists in the fields of neuroscience, circadian rhythms and immunology

LA JOLLA–Four Salk Institute faculty members have been promoted after the latest round of faculty reviews determined they are scientific leaders who have made original, innovative and notable contributions to biological research.

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Mobile app records our erratic eating habits

LA JOLLA–Breakfast, lunch and dinner? For too many of us, the three meals of the day go more like: morning meeting pastry, mid-afternoon energy drink and midnight pizza. In Cell Metabolism on September 24, Salk Institute scientists present daily food and beverage intake data collected from over 150 participants of a mobile research app over three weeks. They show that a majority of people eat for 15 hours or longer, with less than a quarter of the day’s calories being consumed before noon and over a third consumed after 6 p.m.

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Another case against the midnight snack

LA JOLLA–These days, with the abundance of artificial light, TV, tablets and smartphones, adults and children alike are burning the midnight oil. What they are not burning is calories: with later bedtimes comes the tendency to eat.

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In a healthy gut, microbes wax and wane throughout the day

LA JOLLA–Taking a single snapshot of all the bacteria that live in a mouse’s–or person’s–stomach and intestines can capture the health of the organism’s digestive system and even their risk of developing immune diseases and cancers. But it might take more than one snapshot to get a full picture, Salk researchers have discovered.

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Single gene controls jet lag

LA JOLLA–Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a gene that regulates sleep and wake rhythms.

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Genes discovered linking circadian clock with eating schedule

LA JOLLA—For most people, the urge to eat a meal or snack comes at a few, predictable times during the waking part of the day. But for those with a rare syndrome, hunger comes at unwanted hours, interrupts sleep and causes overeating.

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Drug blocks light sensors in eye that may trigger migraine attacks

LA JOLLA, CA—For many migraine sufferers, bright lights are a surefire way to exacerbate their headaches. And for some night-shift workers, just a stroll through a brightly lit parking lot during the morning commute home can be enough to throw off their body’s daily rhythms and make daytime sleep nearly impossible. But a new molecule that selectively blocks specialized light-sensitive receptors in the eyes could help both these groups of people, without affecting normal vision according to a study published August 25, 2013 in Nature Chemical Biology.

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More than 3,000 epigenetic switches control daily liver cycles

LA JOLLA, CA—When it’s dark, and we start to fall asleep, most of us think we’re tired because our bodies need rest. Yet circadian rhythms affect our bodies not just on a global scale, but at the level of individual organs, and even genes.

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Salk scientists discover molecular link between circadian clock disturbances and inflammatory diseases

LA JOLLA, CA—Scientists have known for some time that throwing off the body’s circadian rhythm can negatively affect body chemistry. In fact, workers whose sleep-wake cycles are disrupted by night shifts are more susceptible to chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cancer.

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Salk study may offer drug-free intervention to prevent obesity and diabetes

LA JOLLA, CA—It turns out that when we eat may be as important as what we eat. Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have found that regular eating times and extending the daily fasting period may override the adverse health effects of a high-fat diet and prevent obesity, diabetes and liver disease in mice.

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Salk scientists redraw the blueprint of the body’s biological clock

LA JOLLA, CA—The discovery of a major gear in the biological clock that tells the body when to sleep and metabolize food may lead to new drugs to treat sleep problems and metabolic disorders, including diabetes.

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“Alarm clock” gene explains wake-up function of biological clock

LA JOLLA, CA‚Ever wondered why you wake up in the morning—even when the alarm clock isn’t making jarring noises? Wonder no more. Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a new component of the biological clock, a gene responsible for starting the clock from its restful state every morning.

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Salk Institute promotes latest generation of extraordinary scientists

LA JOLLA, CA—After undergoing an extensive review process by Salk senior faculty, Non-Resident Fellows, and scientific leaders in their respective fields, Leanne Jones and Satchidananda Panda have been promoted to Associate Professor, and E.J. Chichilnisky, Andrew Dillin, Martin Hetzer, and Jan Karlseder to full Professor, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies announced today.

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Melanopsin looks on the bright side of life

LA JOLLA, CA—Better known as the light sensor that sets the body’s biological clock, melanopsin also plays an important role in vision: Via its messengers-so-called melanopsin-expressing retinal ganglion cells, or mRGCs-it forwards information about the brightness of incoming light directly to conventional visual centers in the brain, reports an international collaboration of scientists in this week’s issue of PLoS Biology.

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Feeding the clock

LA JOLLA, CA—When you eat may be just as vital to your health as what you eat, found researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Their experiments in mice revealed that the daily waxing and waning of thousands of genes in the liver—the body’s metabolic clearinghouse—is mostly controlled by food intake and not by the body’s circadian clock as conventional wisdom had it.

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Perfect vision but blind to light

La Jolla, CA – Mammals have two types of light-sensitive detectors in the retina. Known as rod and cone cells, they are both necessary to picture their environment. However, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have found that eliminating a third sensor – cells expressing a photopigment called melanopsin that measures the intensity of incoming light – makes the circadian clock blind to light, yet leaves normal vision intact.

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Salk Institute researcher named Pew Scholar

La Jolla, CA – Satchidananda Panda, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Regulatory Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has been named a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. He is one of only 15 researchers in the country to receive the honor this year. The distinction comes with a $240,000 award provided over four years to support his research on the molecular basis of circadian timekeeping mechanisms in mammals.

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Human Biological Clock Sensor Uses Fly Eye ‘Technology’

La Jolla, CA – Scientists working for the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have discovered the chemical basis of our sixth sense – the mysterious switch that resets our biological clocks as we cross time zones. The finding brings closer to reality medications to treat so-called circadian disorders such as severe jet lag and seasonal depression, as well as improve the lives of shift workers.

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