Menu

The History of Optogenetics Revised

Credit for the neuroscience technique has largely overlooked the researcher who first demonstrated the method.

Sep 1, 2016
Kerry Grens

PIXABAY, GERALTThe creation of optogenetics as a popular approach to manipulating neural behavior is largely attributed to Stanford University’s Karl Deisseroth and MIT’s Ed Boyden. The pair, in collaboration with their colleagues, published a seminal Nature Neuroscience paper (cited more than 2,100 times, according to Google Scholar) in 2005 that is often credited as the beginning of optogenetics.

But a report in STAT News today (September 1) reveals that a Wayne State researcher by the name of Zhuo-Hua Pan actually got optogenetics to work first.

The method works by introducing channelrhodopsin into cells; activating the light-sensitive molecule alters the activity of the cell. “In August 2004, Boyden shined light on a brain neuron in a dish and recorded electrical activity from the channelrhodopsin,” STAT reported. “Pan had done the same thing with retina neurons six months earlier. But then he got scooped.”

Pan presented his work at a conference in 2005, a few months before Boyden and Deisseroth published their paper. But Pan struggled to get his work published in a journal until a year later. (Read Boyden’s account of the history of optogenetics in his 2011 article in The Scientist.)

STAT highlights the difference in funding and accolades between Deisseroth and Boyden on the one hand and Pan on the other. The situation is not unique to optogenetics. As The Scientist reported last year, competitors who worked toward solving the structure of the nucleosome in the 1980s and 90s argue that credit for the accomplishments has been uneven—and one of the most important publications in the field even left off a critical citation.

Patent disputes over the gene-editing technique CRISPR also highlight the challenges of determining who first invented a method when numerous labs are working toward similar goals simultaneously.

Boyden told STAT he was unaware of the optogenetics timeline involving Pan’s experiments. “It’s funny to think about how science regards when something is proven,” he said.

September 2018

The Muscle Issue

The dynamic tissue reveals its secrets

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Horizon Discovery introduces Myeloid DNA Reference Standard to support genetic testing of leukemia

Horizon Discovery introduces Myeloid DNA Reference Standard to support genetic testing of leukemia

Horizon Discovery Group plc, a global leader in gene editing and gene modulation technologies, today announced the launch of its Myeloid DNA Reference Standard. The first-to-market large cell-line derived myeloid cancer reference standard designed enables faster, more reliable and more cost-effective assay validation, to support the market in bringing routine testing into practice.

StemExpress LeukopakâNow Available in Frozen Format

StemExpress LeukopakâNow Available in Frozen Format

StemExpress, a Folsom, California based leading supplier of human biospecimens, announces the release of frozen Peripheral Blood Leukopaks. Leukopaks provide an enriched source of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) with low granulocyte and red blood cells that can be used in a variety of downstream cell-based applications.

New Antifade Mounting Media from Vector Laboratories Enhances Immunofluorescence Applications

New Antifade Mounting Media from Vector Laboratories Enhances Immunofluorescence Applications

Vector Laboratories, a leader in the development and manufacture of labeling and detection reagents for biomedical research, introduces VECTASHIELD® Vibrance™ – antifade mounting media that delivers significant improvements to the immunofluorescence workflow.

Best Practices for Sample Preparation and Lipid Extraction from Various Samples

Best Practices for Sample Preparation and Lipid Extraction from Various Samples

Download this white paper from Bertin Technologies to learn how to extract and analyze lipid samples from various models!