March 6, 2002

Molecular Researchers to Link Heart & Brain Puzzle Pieces
At UCSD, Salk and Nature Medicine Conference March 13-16

Topics include the convergence of heart and brain research, the critical shortage of physician-scientists, and award presentations to prominent scientists and organizations

Nearly 400 nationally prominent scientists converging on La Jolla in mid-March will be engrossed in a virtual crossword puzzle of the heart and brain – two different organ systems that appear to have more in common than previously thought.

The medical researchers will attend the 2nd Annual Days of Molecular Medicine symposium March 13-16, 2002, which is co-sponsored by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Institute of Molecular Medicine, The Salk Institute of Biological Studies, and the journal Nature Medicine.

Conference co-organizer Kenneth Chien, M.D., Ph.D., director of UCSD’s Institute of Molecular Medicine, notes that heart and brain research is like a crossword puzzle where letters in a vertical word help determine a horizontal word.

“We get insights into medical disease by looking at more than one organ,” Chien says. “As in a crossword puzzle, you can solve 27 down, but you need to look at 23 across to get a clue from the common letter in both words. In medical research, we’ve learned there are many common molecules and signaling pathways that the heart and brain share. In terms of disease pathways, these organs are more integrated than we had realized.”

At the Days of Molecular Medicine symposium, which is subtitled “Heart and Brain: Signaling Pathways in Complex Human Diseases,” attendees will learn about new discoveries in heart and brain research, including topics such as chronic degenerative diseases, plasticity, diseases of excitability, and signaling cascades.There will be keynote presentations by Susumu Tonegawa, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who will discuss “NMDA Receptor Pathways in Learning and Memory,” and Leon Rosenberg, M.D., Princeton University, who will discuss the critical shortage of physician-scientists in the medical research community.

Co-organizer Ronald Evans, Ph.D., director of The Salk Institute Gene Expression Laboratory and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, said "with the completion of the Human Genome Project, a vocabulary list of some 35,000 genes has been revealed. Speakers at the conference will discuss their progress in linking these genes in meaningful patterns.”

The symposium also includes award presentations: