Profiles of Leading Women Scientists on AcademiaNet – an initiative of the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
Search among the members of the Leopoldina for experts in specific fields or research topics.
Research Priorities: Channelrhodopsins (transport proteins), light-gated ions, information transfer between nerve cells, optogenetics
Ernst Bamberg is a German biophysicist. His research priority are channelrhodopsins. The discovery of these special light-gated ion channels in cell membranes has enabled researchers to intervene in the transfer of information between nerve cells. The discovery that light can reversibly activate and deactivate nerve cells both in cell cultures and in the brains of living animals with high temporal and spatial accuracy, has opened up a variety of new study possibilities in neurosciences.
Together with Georg Nagel and Peter Hegemann, Ernst Bamberg discovered the channelrhodopsine (ChR1, 2) in the single-cell freshwater alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Using them as light-gated ion channels in combination with the light-driven Cl-pump Halorhodopsin (NphR) from halophilic bacteria in electrically excitable cells has led to the development of optogenetics, a method which is now used around world. In the future, this could help recover sight in certain types of sight loss. Thus, this development has triggered a revolution in neurobiology in particular, as light can now reversibly activate (ChR2) or deactivate (NphR) nerve cells both in cell cultures and in the brains of living animals with high temporal and, especially, previously unknown spatial accuracy.
Optogenetics offers possible biomedical approaches for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as macular degeneration and Parkinson’s disease. Ernst Bamberg develops new optogenetic tools for neurobiological and potential biomedical applications.