Will Ed Boyden win a Nobel Prize

Renowned US award for Austrian physician Miesenböck

Gero Miesenböck is one of the favorites for this year's Nobel Prize in Medicine. The Austrian and his colleagues have now been honored with the $ 500,000 "Warren Alpert Foundation Prize" for their groundbreaking development in optogenetics.

Four researchers received the "Warren Alpert Foundation Prize 2019" for the development of optogenetics. The Austrian neuroscientist Gero Miesenböck (54) from Oxford University is among the winners. The foundation will award the prize, which has been endowed with a total of 500,000 dollars (450,000 euros) and has been awarded since 1987, on October 3rd at the Harvard Medical School in Boston (USA).

In addition to Miesenböck, the award was given to Edward Boyden from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Karl Deisseroth from Stanford University and Peter Hegemann from Humboldt University Berlin. This is awarded by the Warren Alpert Foundation in cooperation with the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard University to scientists, doctors and researchers "whose scientific achievements have contributed to the prevention, cure or treatment of diseases and / or whose research has led to results that hold great potential for a change in understanding or ability to treat disease ".

The Warren Alpert Foundation describes optogenetics as "a revolutionary method that uses genetic changes in combination with light to control the activity of brain cells. This enables a range of brain functions and dysfunctions to be explored and understood, including those that do Sensory processing, motor control, learning, memory, emotion and social behavior are based, and the method creates the basis for optogenetic therapies in diseases ranging from Parkinson's to addiction.

Breakthrough discoveries

"The discoveries made by this year's four winners have fundamentally changed the landscape of neuroscience," said Harvard Medical School Dean George Daley in a press release from the foundation. "Their work has enabled scientists to see, understand, and manipulate neurons. This forms the basis for understanding the ultimate puzzle - the human brain."

Experiments by Miesenböck showed in 2002 that it is possible to use light to modify neural activities, according to the foundation. He developed light-sensitive signaling pathways into a molecular tool to investigate neuronal function at the cell and system level. Miesenböck tested the approach on fruit flies - and demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to control the brain with light. Specifically, with this method, individual cells can be switched on and off by a light stimulus using genetically introduced light-sensitive proteins. This makes it possible to specifically control and monitor the functions of neural networks.

Miesenböck was born on July 15, 1965 in Braunau am Inn (Upper Austria) and studied medicine at the University of Innsbruck. In 1993 he received his doctorate there "sub auspiciis praesidentis". He then went to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York as a Schrödinger Fellow. From there he moved to Yale University and in 2007 was the first non-Briton to be appointed to the Waynflete Chair in Physiology at Oxford University. The neuroscientist was ranked among the favorites for this year's Nobel Prize in Medicine by the data analysis company Clarivate Analytics, together with Ernst Bamberg (Max Planck Institute for Biophysics in Frankfurt / Main) and Karl Deisseroth for the development of optogenetics.