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The first HFSP Nakasone award goes to Karl Deisseroth of Stanford University
Date:4/8/2010

The Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO) is pleased to announce that the first HFSP Nakasone Award has been conferred upon Karl Deisseroth of Stanford University for his pioneering work on the development and application of optogenetic techniques for the study of the relationship between neural circuits and behaviour. The HFSP Nakasone Award has been established to honour scientists who have made key breakthroughs in fields at the forefront of the life sciences. It recognizes the vision of former Prime Minister Nakasone of Japan in the creation of the Human Frontier Science Program. The recipient will give the first HFSP Nakasone Lecture at the annual meeting of HFSP awardees to be held in Kerala, India in November 2010.

A major challenge in neuroscience is to understand the cellular mechanisms underlying neural circuits responsible for behaviours. Approaches from pharmacology and electrophysiology have made major contributions to our understanding of the chemical and electrical basis of neural activity, but have not allowed the manipulation of specific classes of nerve cells in defined anatomical areas. Karl Deisseroth's contribution has been to engineer neurons of defined specificity in a way that makes them sensitive to light, and to use light as a stimulus to activate or inhibit their activity.

His approach builds on studies of microbial opsins (genes that encode light-activated ion channels and pumps called bacteriorhodopsins, halorhodopsins, and channelrhodopsins), ranging from work by Walter Stoeckenius and Dieter Oesterhelt in 1971 to work by Peter Hegemann and Georg Nagel in 2002, on the microbial biology and biophysics of these proteins. In a paper published in 2005, Karl Deisseroth, the principal investigator of a team at Stanford that included graduate students Ed Boyden and Feng Zhang, took the gene for one of these microbial opsins and inserted it into a virus that was then used to insert the genes into nerve cell
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Contact: Martin Reddington
mreddington@hfsp.org
33-388-215-124
Human Frontier Science Program
Source:Eurekalert

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