Creating the Future

Video portrait Hector Fellow Peter Hegemann

Control­ling Neurons with Light: Portrait of Optoge­net­ics Pioneer Peter Hegemann

Peter Hegemann is a profes­sor at Humboldt-Univer­sität zu Berlin and head of group for Exper­i­men­tal Biophysics. In 2015, he was honored with the Hector Science Award. Since then, he has been a member of the Hector Fellow Academy, a network of top profes­sors in engineer­ing, natural sciences, medicine and psychology.

The world's leading expert in photo­bi­ol­ogy is consid­ered a co-founder of optoge­net­ics, which combines methods of optics and genet­ics to non-invasively stimu­late single neurons. His research on algal photore­cep­tors led to the discov­ery of light-depen­dent ion channels. The proteins involved, called "channel rhodopsins," enable precise control of genet­i­cally modified cells by light pulses. This opens up new possi­bil­i­ties for the treat­ment of neuronal diseases. For example, innov­a­tive treat­ment methods for Parkinson's disease are being researched.

In the Hector Fellow Academy, Peter Hegemann is leading an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary project together with Hector Fellow Karl Leo from the Technis­che Univer­sität Dresden entitled "High-resolu­tion optoge­net­ics with organic light-emitting diodes". The aim of the project is to test novel light-emitting diodes, which can imitate differ­ent colours of light, on the light-sensi­tive proteins and to study signal propa­ga­tion within a neuronal network. Young scien­tist Rodrigo Fernan­dez Lahore is a member of Peter Hegemann's team and plays a major role in this project.

Peter Hegemann is also commit­ted to the dialog between science and the public. He is the organizer of the 2023 sympo­sium of the Hector Fellow Academy entitled "Light in Biology — Photo­syn­the­sis, Visual Processes and Neuronal Appli­ca­tions". This will take place on July 6, 2023 at 6 pm at the Langen­beck-Virchow-Haus in Berlin and via livestream. Infor­ma­tion and regis­tra­tion:

The Hector Fellow Academy is a young science academy that was founded in 2013 with the aim to create a network for Hector Science Award winners. The Hector Science Award is given to profes­sors from Germany for their outstand­ing research and teach­ing in engineer­ing, natural sciences, medicine or psychol­ogy annually. The Hector Fellow Academy offers its members a platform for exchange and facil­i­tates joint inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research projects. To promote young scien­tists, it finances doctoral positions and announces the Hector Research Career Devel­op­ment Award, which supports young scien­tists on their way to profes­sor­ships. By connect­ing outstand­ing scien­tists from differ­ent disci­plines and insti­tu­tions, the Hector Fellow Academy creates impulses for innov­a­tive projects, initi­ates socio-polit­i­cal discourses and contributes to the solution of global challenges. At the same time, it strength­ens Germany as a research place.

Datum 15.05.2023
Tags Video; Portrait; Biology; Chemistry; Medicine