Peter Hegemann is one of the brilliant scientists awarded at Canada’s Gairdner International Awards. One of the most interesting facts connected with his innovations is that they are evidence of a natural phenomenon or substances re-discovered in humans after they were previously exploited in other species. Also, his theories support the idea that all beings have some common features, next to their unique ones, even if we are talking about mice or people.
Professor’s Hegemann work lead to the discovery of channelrhodopsins, a special protein from algaes that can be used for turning light into electrical signals. His discoveries where completed in 2005 by Karl Deisseroth and Ed Boyden. They have made another stunning breakthrough and managed to show how a gene that produces channelrhodopsin could be inserted into a neuron’s DNA for creating a brain cell that could be work as a light switch; it could be turned on and off with a pulse of light.
How can we use their findings
The three scientists obtained a technology called optogenetics. Since it was discovered, it has been used with great effect upon animals and it has provided an effective and clear understanding on how the brain runs our entire system, controlling sensations, memory and other complex neuronal operations.
Next to these amazing scientists, two other international award winners, Davor Solter and Azim Surani have made revolutionary breakthroughs in the genetic field. They were among the first who discovered that a part of the DNA we inherit from our parents can be useful in the process of studying and understanding a series developmental disease.
Gairdner International Award gives its’ winners $100,000 and the pride of being rewarded with the most prestigious Canadian science prize. An important mention is that non-Canadian researchers can receive it too. Also, this distinction opens the way towards the Nobel Prize; almost a quarter of previous Gairdner winners received the Nobel afterwards.