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  • Optogenetics Pioneers Ed Boyden, Karl Deisseroth, Gero Miesenböck Garner International Research Prizes

Photonics.com
Nov 2015
SAN FRANCISCO and MAINZ, Germany, Nov. 10, 2015 — Ed BoydenThree optogenetics researchers have been recognized with international awards for their pioneering work on controlling cells with light.

Ed Boyden, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Karl Deisseroth, of Stanford University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, were each awarded a 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, which includes $3 million in cash.

Karl DeisserothBoth were acknowledged for their individual contributions to the development and implementation of optogenetics, a technique that makes use of light-sensitive proteins to control neural and other cells.

Meanwhile, Gero Miesenböck, of the University of Oxford and the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behavior in England, received the €100,000 Heinrich Wieland Prize.

Gero MiesenböckMiesenböck is credited as the first to insert a light-controlled on/off switch into brain cells in 1999. To switch specific nerve cells on and off using light, Miesenböck initially transferred three different fruit fly genes into the brains of mice. Within a few years, Miesenböck and other researchers found ways to control the activity of nerve cells in millisecond intervals by transferring a single gene.

The Wieland Prize honors outstanding research on biologically active molecules and systems in the fields of chemistry, biochemistry and physiology, as well as their clinical importance. It is presented annually by the Boehringer Ingelheim Foundation of Germany.

The Breakthrough Prize, now in its third year, honors transformative advances toward understanding living systems and extending human life. It was founded by Internet entrepreneurs including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma, Google cofounder Sergey Brin and 23andMe cofounder Anne Wojcicki.


GLOSSARY
optogenetics
A discipline that combines optics and genetics to enable the use of light to stimulate and control cells in living tissue, typically neurons, which have been genetically modified to respond to light. Only the cells that have been modified to include light-sensitive proteins will be under control of the light. The ability to selectively target cells gives researchers precise control. Using light to control the excitation, inhibition and signaling pathways of specific cells or groups of cells...
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