Moments of Acute Stress Can Cause Molecular Alterations in Immune Response

Findings come from study that involved participants jumping out of planes —

Chronic psychosocial and emotional stress has well-documented negative effects upon the human immune system, measurably increasing the risk of disease. Much less is known about the health effects of acute but transitory episodes of stress, such as jumping out of an airplane. Do these panic-inducing moments also raise the risk of stress-related conditions and disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, sleep dysfunction, impaired wound healing, depression and obesity?

A team of researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, Stony Brook University in New York and elsewhere addressed that question by asking study participants to literally jump out of a plane, taking blood samples before and after to measure key immune response indicators.

Their findings are published in the March 4 issue of Brain, Behavior and Immunity. … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Nadejda Beliakova-Bethell, PhD, Assistant Project Scientist and infectious disease researcher in the Department of Medicine, is co-first author on the study report.

Read the Report in Brain, Behavior and Immunity (UC San Diego only)

UC San Diego Researcher to Lead First-of-Its-Kind NASA Identical Twins Study

Brinda Rana, a professor at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, has been awarded NASA funding to study fluid flows in the brains of identical twin astronauts—one of whom will spend a year in space, while the other is left on Earth. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center

Drug Treatment Corrects Autism Symptoms in Mouse Model

An old drug gives hope for new treatment in autism

Autism results from abnormal cell communication. Testing a new theory, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have used a newly discovered function of an old drug to restore cell communications in a mouse model of autism, reversing symptoms of the devastating disorder.

The findings are published in the March 13, 2013 issue of the journal PLOS ONE. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


First author of the study report is Robert K. Naviaux, MD, PhD, professor of medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics and professor in the departments of pediatrics and pathology.

Naviaux leads a medical genetics research laboratory whose two major areas of study are the mitochondrial mechanisms of disease and development and evolutionary systems biology and marine metagenomics. He is founder and co-director of the UC San Diego Mitochondrial and Metabolic Disease Center.

Naviaux earned his MD and PhD degrees at the Indiana University School of Medicine and received his advanced training in virology and molecular biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. There, in the laboratory of Dr. Inder Verma, he conducted investigations in gene therapy and retrovirus biology.

Other Department of Medicine authors of the report are Laura L. Dugan, MD, who is chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Larry L. Hillblom Chair in Geriatric Medicine; research associates Lin Wang and Qingbo Tang; and Mihael Rogac.

Citation for the report:  Naviaux RK, Zolkipli Z, Wang L, Nakayama T, Naviaux JC, et al. (2013) Antipurinergic Therapy Corrects the Autism-Like Features in the Poly(IC) Mouse Model. PLoS ONE 8(3): e57380. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057380  |  Read the report

Two from UCSD School of Medicine Named Members of the Institute of Medicine

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) today announced the names of 70 new members and 10 foreign associates during its 42nd annual meeting.  Included are two new members from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine: David A. Brenner, MD, vice chancellor for Health Sciences and dean of the UCSD School of Medicine, and Don W. Cleveland, PhD, chair of the UCSD Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and professor of medicine, neurosciences, and cellular and molecular medicine at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. David BrennerA translational researcher, Dr. David Brenner investigates the molecular pathogenesis of fibrotic liver disease and the genetic basis of  liver disorders. He is a member of the Division of Gastroenterology in the Department of Medicine.  |  Read his academic biography

Chronic Stress Spawns Protein Aggregates Linked to Alzheimer’s

Repeated stress triggers the production and accumulation of insoluble tau protein aggregates inside the brain cells of mice, say researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine in a new study published in the March 26 Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. Wylie Vale Dr. Wylie Vale was one of two Salk Institute for Biological Studies researchers who contributed to this research. Dr. Vale, who held an adjunct professorship in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, collaborated on numerous research projects at UC San Diego. He passed away on January 6, 2012.  |  Read memorial

Read abstract of study report

Citation for the study report: Rissman RA, Staup MA, Lee AR, Justice NJ, Rice KC, Vale W, Sawchenko PE. Corticotropin-releasing factor receptor-dependent effects of repeated stress on tau phosphorylation, solubility, and aggregation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Apr 17;109(16):6277-82. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1203140109. Epub 2012 Mar 26.

In Memoriam: Wiley Vale, PhD

Dr. Vale

Wylie W. Vale, Jr, PhD
1941 – 2012

Wiley W. Vale, Jr, PhD, a renowned and beloved Salk Institute and UC San Diego scientist whose pioneering work identified key brain hormones and growth factors, died on January 6 at the age of 70.

Vale was Professor and Helen McLoraine Chair in Molecular Neurobiology and Head of the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

He was highly regarded as the global authority on peptide hormones and growth factors that provide communication between the brain and endocrine system. Vale and his collaborators identified the central switchboard, a group of neuropeptides and their receptors that mediate the body’s responses to stress and stress-related disorders.

Among these neuropeptides is corticotropin releasing factor (CRF), characterized by Vale and colleagues in 1981. The work has had far-reaching effects in medical research and clinical medicine.

At UCSD, Vale held an adjunct professorship in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism. He contributed for many years as a researcher and educator in the School of Medicine and the Neurobiology Section of the Division of Biological Sciences.

“This is a great loss for those of us at UCSD who knew and worked with Wylie, and a great loss for endocrine science,” said Wolfgang H. Dillmann, MD, Helen M. Ranney Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine.

“Wylie and his group of peptide chemists and neuroendocrinologists trained several PhD students in the Biomedical Sciences and Neurosciences graduate programs who have taken leadership positions in research and academia,” said Palmer Taylor, PhD.

Taylor is Sandra and Monroe Trout Professor of Pharmacology, founding Dean of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences.

Vale’s coworkers and friends in the School of Medicine included numerous faculty members in the departments of reproductive medicine, neurosciences, psychiatry and surgery.

In 2004, Vale and colleagues at UCSD established the firmest link between a family of hormones that helps the body adapt to stress and possible new treatments for congestive heart failure.

Vale discovered that the hormone urocortin-2 has a positive impact on heart function, and the hormone was shown to significantly enhance heart muscle contractions. | Read the abstract of the study report in PNAS

In that effort, Vale collaborated with Drs. Kirk Peterson, Kenneth Chien and coworkers at the Seaweed Canyon Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory and the Institute for Molecular Medicine.

Kirk L. Peterson, MD, FACP, FACC, the Edith and William M. Perlman Professor of Clinical Cardiology, is Director of the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, Director of the Seaweed Canyon Physiology Laboratory and professor emeritus in cardiology.

Kenneth Chien, MD, PhD, is professor emeritus in cardiology and former director of the Institute for Molecular Medicine.

Vale was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. In 1992-1993, he served as president of the Endocrine Society.

He co-founded two biotechnology companies, Neurocrine Biosciences and Acceleron Pharma, Inc.

The Vale family and the Endocrine Society have placed tribute pages on the Web where remembrances can be entered and viewed. Vale family tribute | Endocrine Society tribute

For more about Dr. Vale and his work, please see the Salk Institute press release.

Sex Hormone Precursor Inhibits Brain Inflammation

UCSD scientists say molecule moderates condition linked to neurodegenerative diseases

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered a steroid hormone that inhibits inflammation in the brain. The findings, to be published in the May 13 issue of the journal Cell, have implications for understanding the exaggerated inflammatory responses that are characteristic features of numerous neurodegenerative diseases. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Christopher K. Glass, MD, PhD

Senior author of the study is Christopher K. Glass, MD, PhD (pictured above), Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism and Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. Kaoru Saijo, MD, PhD, project scientist in the Glass laboratory, is the study’s first author.

Read the published study in Cell (free full text).

Schizophrenia Gene Mutation Found; Target for New Drugs

In a major advance for schizophrenia research, an international team of scientists, led by Jonathan Sebat, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and cellular and molecular medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, has identified a gene mutation strongly linked to the brain disorder – and a signaling pathway that may be treatable with existing compounds. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

One of the co-authors of the study report is Marie Dell’Aquila, Ph.D., Clinical Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics and Director of the Cytogenetics Laboratory for the UC San Diego Health System.

Researchers Find a ‘Liberal Gene’

Liberals may owe their political outlook partly to their genetic make-up, according to new research from the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard University. Ideology is affected not just by social factors, but also by a dopamine receptor gene called DRD4. The study’s authors say this is the first research to identify a specific gene that predisposes people to certain political views… Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Dr. James Fowler

Lead researcher of the study is James H. Fowler, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics and Professor of Political Science at UC San Diego.

In the Media: Dr. Richard Clark

Dr. Richard Clark is one of the three experts interviewed in the KPBS These Days segment, “The Science of Substance Abuse.”

Richard F. Clark, M.D., Professor of Clinical Medicine, directs the Division of Medical Toxicology in Emergency Medicine. He is medical director of the San Diego Division of the California Poison Control System at UCSD Medical Center.