AHA-Allen Initiative

AHA-Allen Initiative Team led by Rusty Gage, Ph.D.

AHA-Allen Initiative Team at Salk Institute

Rusty Gage, Ph.D., neuroscience researcher and President of Salk leads an interdisciplinary group of professors at Salk that believe that Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related brain disorders are triggered not by a single event, but by a failure of complex interwoven biological systems in our body that start to break down as we age. Their research team has developed unique new ways to study aging and diseased human neurons using brain “organoids” and marmosets as a new primate model of cognitive aging. They will now use these models to pursue a comprehensive understanding of the biology of aging and age-related diseases in an eight-year project. Gage’s theory is that failure in any one of these systems, which are integral to every cell in our bodies, puts pressure on the other processes, eventually causing a domino-like crash that causes devastating brain disorders like Alzheimer’s. Understanding the multi-part network that keeps our brains healthy could highlight pathways for better treatments for these diseases. 

Rusty Gage, Ph.D.

Rusty Gage is President of the Salk Institute, professor in the Laboratory of Genetics and holds the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Diseases. The Gage laboratory concentrates on the adult central nervous system and unexpected plasticity and adaptability to environmental stimulation that remains throughout the life of all mammals. His work may lead to methods of replacing or enhancing brain and spinal cord tissues lost or damaged due to neurodegenerative disease or trauma. 

Dr. Gage’s lab showed that, contrary to accepted dogma, human beings are capable of growing new nerve cells throughout life. Small populations of immature nerve cells are found in the adult mammalian brain, a process called neurogenesis. Dr. Gage is working to understand how these cells can be induced to become mature functioning nerve cells in the adult brain and spinal cord. His lab showed that environmental enrichment and physical exercise can enhance the growth of new brain cells. They are studying the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms that may be harnessed to repair the aged and damaged brain and spinal cord.