For decades, scientists have fantasized about whether light, if properly harnessed, could be used to turn neurons on or off as a way to study behavior, understand decision-making and even treat disease.
In 1999, Nobel laureate Francis Crick described the idea as far-fetched, but conceivable.
Twenty years later, on Oct. 3, the Warren Alpert Foundation celebrated the four scientists who realized this far-fetched ideaEdward Boyden, Karl Deisseroth, Peter Hegemann and Gero Miesenbck, who together share the 2019 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize for their seminal contributions to the field of optogenetics.
Get more HMS news here
Today, the techniquewhich involves genetically modifying neurons to express light-sensitive proteins originally isolated from algaeallows neuroscientists to control the activity of neurons with unprecedented power and precision, simply by exposing them to light.
Taken together, these discoveries have fundamentally reshaped the landscape of modern neuroscience, said George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School, in his welcoming remarks at the 2019 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize Symposium.
They have set the stage for optogenetics-based therapies that could, one day, be used to restore vision loss, preserve movement following spinal cord injury or modulate circuits that fuel anxiety and depression, and many other applications, Daley said.
More than three decades ago, entrepreneur and philanthropist Warren Alpert established a foundation to recognize scientists whose research and achievements promised to revolutionize how we understand, diagnose and treat disease.
Since then, the Warren Alpert Prize, administered by the Warren Alpert Foundation and HMS, has awarded nearly $5 million to 69 scientists, 10 of whom have gone on to receive Nobel prizes.
Curiosity and wonder
The four pioneers of optogenetics now join this prestigious group. At the symposium held in their honor, they each presented short scientific lectures spanning different facets of a technique that has changed how we study the brain.
Peter Hegemann, the Hertie professor of neuroscience at Humboldt University of Berlin, presented on his current research and on the history of the development of optogenetics, which can be traced to more than a century ago, when scientists first observed that algae could sense light and move in response. Hegemann emphasized the importance of curiosity and wonder in scientific research and the beauty of unpredictability in science.
Edward Boyden, the Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology at MIT, associate professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab and an investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, spoke about his efforts to develop next-generation optogenetic tools, such as expansion microscopy, to map, control and observe the brain to better understand its function.
Gero Miesenbck, the Waynflete Professor of Physiology and director of the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, presented his work using optogenetic and other approaches to unravel the mystery of the brains sleep-control systems and build a molecular interpretation of the cellular processes involved.
Karl Deisseroth, the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, spoke on his efforts to better understand the rhodopsin light-sensitive proteins at the heart of optogenetics. Insights into the inner workings of these proteins are allowing scientists to modify them and expand the power and scope of what optogenetics-based research can achieve.
Deisseroth, like Hegemann, also emphasized the value of basic science.
All the exciting advances weve made in understanding the brain and mammalian behavior and neural circuits across biology, is in many ways deeply rooted in botany and the basic science of studying plants, he said.
Also presenting at the symposium were junior researchers who spoke about how they are applying optogenetics to answer fundamental questions about the brain.
Kimberly Reinhold, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Sabatini lab in the Department of Neurobiology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS, discussed her research into the neural circuits involved in reward-learning.
Charlotte Arlt, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Harvey lab in the Department of Neurobiology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS, spoke about her work investigating the neural circuits involved in trial-and-error learning and spatial decision-making.
Optogenetics is credited, rightfully so, with bringing neuroscience into the realm of causal experimentation, said symposium moderator Bernardo Sabatini, the Alice and Rodman W. Moorhead III Professor of Neurobiology at HMS.
It has enabled basic discoveries of the brain that have led to new ways to study and treat neuropsychiatric disease, and in the future its possible that other conditions, such as blindness and paralysis, could be addressed with optogenetic manipulations of the brain, he said.
The four people honored today took this far-fetched idea and made it a reality, Sabatini said.
Photos by Gretchen Ertl
The rest is here:
- Planning to go to Medical School? Join the Great Lakes Applicant Workshop - University of Wisconsin-Madison - May 24th, 2020
- Mother-Daughter Duo Become First To Graduate From Medical School At The Same Time And Match At The Same Hospital - Because of Them We Can - May 24th, 2020
- Its the American dream: Law school and medical school grads visit their grandpa at La Crescenta nursing home in emotional reunion amid pandemic - KTLA... - May 24th, 2020
- Answering the Call: Med school grads plan to practice in the Valley - Brownsville Herald - May 24th, 2020
- Business Observer for the week of May 24 - Asheboro Courier Tribune - May 24th, 2020
- Grad Profile: Med School valedictorian reflects on L.A. filmmaking past and a new future in medicine - Dal News - May 24th, 2020
- Chicago family holds backyard graduation for their medical student daughter and her friend - FOX 32 Chicago - May 24th, 2020
- What Do Trump And Yale Medical School Have In Common? Both Were Duped About A COVID-19 Treatment - Forbes - May 19th, 2020
- From Medical School To Fighting COVID-19 On The Front Lines At Bellevue Hospital - NPR - May 19th, 2020
- Hartselle grad follows dream from pitcher's mound to medical school - The Hartselle Enquirer - Hartselle Enquirer - May 19th, 2020
- Medicine in Motion - Harvard Medical School - May 19th, 2020
- COVID-19 is in our sewage. Duluth medical school researchers say that could be useful - Duluth News Tribune - May 19th, 2020
- COVID-19 means a shorter MCAT: What aspiring med students must know - American Medical Association - May 19th, 2020
- UT Health Austin and Dell Medical School looking for volunteers interested in helping with COVID-19 contact tracing - KVUE.com - May 19th, 2020
- Doctors In Training Learn Hard Lessons During The Pandemic - NPR - May 19th, 2020
- Harvard Medical School Professor Burton 'Bud' Rose, the 'Steve Jobs of Medicine,' Dies at 77 | News - Harvard Crimson - May 19th, 2020
- Ode to Burton 'Bud' Rose, MD - Renal and Urology News - May 19th, 2020
- Wisconsin medical students are graduating onto the front lines of coronavirus - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - May 19th, 2020
- Using the power of peer support to positively impact medicine - American Medical Association - May 19th, 2020
- Global study to test malaria drug to protect health workers from COVID-19 - Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis - May 19th, 2020
- Sarah Peyre named dean of Warner School - University of Rochester - May 19th, 2020
- TTUHSC named most affordable medical school in the country - KLBK | KAMC | EverythingLubbock.com - April 26th, 2020
- Shortened MCAT exams, extended AMCAS deadlines: How the pandemic has upended medical school admissions - AAMC - April 26th, 2020
- Rowan University's two medical schools will offer early graduation to aid fight against coronavirus - Rowan Today - April 26th, 2020
- Inside the Jefferson medical archives, where the most popular item is 1840's 'Anatomy of the Breast' - Billy Penn - April 26th, 2020
- Early LSU Health grad to serve locally on front lines of COVID-19 - Shreveport Times - April 26th, 2020
- How COVID-19 is affecting medical school admissions - American Medical Association - April 11th, 2020
- OUWB on the frontline: Medical school students, alumni, and faculty battle COVID-19 - News at OU - April 11th, 2020
- After early graduation, Vestal native and new doctor is off to fight on COVID-19 front lines - Pressconnects - April 11th, 2020
- Fighting COVID-19: Enabling Graduating Students to Start Internship Early at Their Own Medical School - Annals of Internal Medicine - April 11th, 2020
- Governor Lamonts executive order permits recent medical school grads to begin practicing during pandemic, implements new workplace safety rules -... - April 11th, 2020
- After early graduation, med student joins the battle - Eagle-Tribune - April 11th, 2020
- Grace: Creighton med students can't be in the hospital, but they're still finding ways to help - Omaha World-Herald - April 11th, 2020
- I'm the head of a medical school. But doctors like me are going back to the frontline - The Guardian - March 20th, 2020
- Thousands of medical students are being fast-tracked into doctors to help fight the coronavirus - CNN - March 20th, 2020
- Medical Training Must Include Education in Abortion Care. Here's Where to Start. - Ms. Magazine - March 20th, 2020
- Expert advice and tips from Warwick Medical School on how to look after our wellbeing and mental health during the coronavirus pandemic - Warwick... - March 20th, 2020
- Coronavirus Live Updates: Hospitals on Both Sides of the Atlantic Struggle as Cases Climb - The New York Times - March 20th, 2020
- As COVID-19 battle escalates, U of T students offer busy health-care workers help on the home front - News@UofT - March 20th, 2020
- Chloroquine May Fight Covid-19and Silicon Valleys Into It - WIRED - March 20th, 2020
- Stopping Contagion With Science at UM: A Look Back - University of Michigan Health System News - March 20th, 2020
- Research Associate - Bristol Medical School job with UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL | 200491 - Times Higher Education (THE) - March 20th, 2020
- Medical education in 2020: How we got here, where we're headed - American Medical Association - March 20th, 2020
- Understanding what works: How the coronavirus is being beaten back - STAT - March 20th, 2020
- Medical Student Organizing in the Time of COVID-19 - Pager Publications, Inc. - March 20th, 2020
- UK universities switching to online lectures and exams - The Guardian - March 16th, 2020
- Marianne Neifert: Find a need and fill it - The Denver Channel - March 16th, 2020
- Medical School Coming to Northside Regeneration in St. Louis - ConnectCRE - March 16th, 2020
- Aging Out of the Mammogram - The New York Times - March 16th, 2020
- Medical Students Proceed with Caution as New York City Campuses Maintain Some Activity - Cornell University The Cornell Daily Sun - March 16th, 2020
- Cured: inside the remarkable world of unexplained medical recoveries - Telegraph.co.uk - March 16th, 2020
- Mass. General, Brigham and Women's, Harvard Medical School shutting down most research labs to try to slow spread of coronavirus - Universal Hub - March 16th, 2020
- Mount Sinai boosts diversity with education programs - ModernHealthcare.com - March 16th, 2020
- California calls on millions of senior citizens to stay home because of coronavirus. What you need to know - Los Angeles Times - March 16th, 2020
- Students note the challenges of medical school debt and look toward tuition options - The Daily Tar Heel - March 5th, 2020
- Realizing the medical school dream, for himself and his family - Scope - March 5th, 2020
- University School of Medicine surpassed funding record with grants from NIH - University of Virginia The Cavalier Daily - March 5th, 2020
- Arcturus Therapeutics and Duke-NUS Medical School Partner to Develop a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccine using STARR TechnologyCollaboration seeks to... - March 5th, 2020
- Paying the Price - Harvard Medical School - March 5th, 2020
- Women Have Closed Med School Enrollment Gap; Others Remain - AAFP News - March 5th, 2020
- Stopping the Second Hit - Harvard Medical School - March 5th, 2020
- More than just a liberal arts university: How the Law School and Med School put USD on the map - The Volante - March 5th, 2020
- WSU and Henry Ford Health System host World Congress Ultrasound in Medical Education - The South End - March 5th, 2020
- CRISPR Used To Edit Genes Inside A Patient With A Rare Form Of Blindness : Shots - Health News - NPR - March 5th, 2020
- In Other News: UT med student starts fresh food delivery service to help those in need - KVUE.com - March 5th, 2020
- Jacobs School students ditch their white coats for chef's coats - UB Now: News and views for UB faculty and staff - University at Buffalo Reporter - March 5th, 2020
- Illuminating the Athletic Aorta - Harvard Medical School - March 5th, 2020
- 10 Costs to Expect When Applying to Medical School - Yahoo Finance - January 30th, 2020
- Pre-Med Students Across The US Increasingly Take Gap Years Before Medical School - Loyola Phoenix - January 30th, 2020
- Bill Gates daughter Jennifer engaged to fellow Stanford alum - East Bay Times - January 30th, 2020
- AAMC launches new initiative to address and eliminate gender inequities - AAMC - January 30th, 2020
- Cedar Rapids Family Medicine Residency, created to address shortage, announces upcoming closure - The Gazette - January 30th, 2020
- Academic medicine on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak - AAMCNews - January 30th, 2020
- 2020-21 tuition, room, board, fees announced - Washington University in St. Louis Newsroom - January 30th, 2020
- Three Tulanians honored with STEM awards - News from Tulane - January 30th, 2020
- How Indian Doctors Get a Medical License in the US - Voice of America - January 30th, 2020
- 'Unfathomable Amounts Of Blood On The Floor' Testimony Continues In TriMet Stabbing Trial - OPB News - January 30th, 2020
- 'Beethoven mice' prevent deafness: Medicine's next big thing? - WNDU-TV - January 30th, 2020
- State Rep. Blanco presents Resolution to Honor Paul L. Foster School of Medicine's 10-Year Anniversary - El Paso Herald-Post - January 30th, 2020
- Work in Healthcare? ZDoggMD Wants Your Voice to Be Heard - Medscape - January 30th, 2020