Gero Andreas Miesenböck at the Royal Society admissions day in London, July 2015
Gero Andreas Miesenböck
15 July 1965
Gero Andreas Miesenböck (born 1965) FRS is Waynflete Professor of Physiology and Director of the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour (CNCB) at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford.
Education and early life
A native of Austria, Miesenböck was educated at the University of Innsbruck and Umeå University in Sweden. He graduated sub auspiciis praesidentis rei publicae from the University of Innsbruck Medical School. Following his Doctor of Medicine (MD) in 1993, he undertook postdoctoral training with James Rothman.
Research and career
Miesenböck is known as the founder of optogenetics. He was the first scientist to modify nerve cells genetically so that their electrical activity could be controlled with light. This involved inserting DNA for light-responsive opsin proteins into the cells. Miesenböck used similar genetic modifications to breed animals whose brains contained light-responsive nerve cells integrated into their circuitry, and was the first to demonstrate that the behaviour of these animals could be remote-controlled.
The principle of optogenetic control established by Miesenböck has been widely adopted, generalised to other biological systems, and technically improved. Most of Miesenböck's work continues to be done with Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies), where it is possible to gain detailed insight into molecular, cellular, and physiological mechanisms of brain function that may relate to human health.
Awards and honours
In 2001, he received the Beckman Young Investigators Award. In 2012 Miesenböck was awarded the InBev-Baillet Latour International Health Prize for "pioneering optogenetic approaches to manipulate neuronal activity and to control animal behaviour". In 2013 he shared the Brain Prize with Ernst Bamberg, Edward Boyden, Karl Deisseroth, Peter Hegemann and Georg Nagel, and the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine with Edward Boyden and Karl Deisseroth. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2015. His certificate of election reads:
|“||Gero Miesenboeck pioneered the science of optogenetics. He established the principles of optogenetic control in 2002, using rhodopsin to activate normally light-insensitive neurons. He was the first to use optogenetics to control behaviour. These seminal experiments have provided a platform for an explosion in optogenetic applications. Recent honours testify to the significance of these findings. Miesenboeck has exploited optogenetics in a succession of brilliant experiments illuminating synaptic connectivity, the neural basis of reward, mechanisms of sleep homeostasis and the control of sexually dimorphic circuitry. These incisive contributions to neuroscience have demonstrated the full potential of optogenetics beyond the proof-of-principle stage.||”|
Miesenböck was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in 2008, and a member of the Academy of Medical Sciences, United Kingdom in 2012, the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 2014, and the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 2016.
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