Proteins involved in constructing neural circuits


Columbia University College Of Physicians and Surgeons


Thomas Jessell, PhD, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons


Through a groundbreaking series of studies, Jessell identified many of the key cellular, molecular, and genetic mechanisms that control the neural development and organization of the spinal cord. He was the first to show that the Sonic hedgehog (Shh) protein determines the subtype and role of motor neurons in movement during early embryonic development. He has also been a pioneer in demonstrating how the Shh and other signaling pathways can be manipulated to direct the process by which stem cells mature into motor neurons, laying the groundwork for reconstructing neural circuits that have been damaged by trauma or neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In 2008, Jessell was the co-recipient of the first Kavli Prize for Neuroscience. In 2014, he was awarded the Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science.