Researchers today can provide nerve cells with light-sensitive protein channels and ion pumps, and thus specifically control them with light. The Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation is now awarding the K. J. Zlch Prize 2012 to four scientists who initiated and were instrumental in promoting the still young research field of optogenetics: Ernst Bamberg of the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics in Frankfurt, Karl Deisseroth of Stanford University in the US, Peter Hegemann of Humboldt University in Berlin, and Georg Nagel of the University of Wrzburg. In awarding these scientists the prize, the Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation acknowledges the great importance of optogenetics, which has caused a revolution in the neurosciences. Optogenetic methods open up completely new investigative possibilities in basic neuroscientific research through to biomedical applications. This has led to a profusion of outstanding research results all over the world within a very short time. The K. J. Zlch Prize 2012 will be awarded on 7 September in Cologne.
Sometimes it is the unprepossessing organisms that take science a giant step forward. The single-cell freshwater alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and the salt lake archaebacterium Natronomonas pharaonis are prime examples of this. They have light-sensing proteins for orientation and energy production known as rhodopsins. Scientists have used these proteins for several years to activate or deactivate nerve and muscle cells with high temporal and spatial accuracy with the aid of light, but without using electrodes.
Peter Hegemann began to study the light perception of algae back in 1985 when he was working at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried. From 1995 onwards, Georg Nagel and Ernst Bamberg at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics succeeded in transferring
|Contact: Francoise Kierdorf|