Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Kavli Institute for Brain Science, Columbia University Medical Center, New York
The Challenge: The nervous system sends signals from our brain to different parts of our body via circuits. This allows us to see, move and process thoughts. However, accidental paralysis or neurodegenerative diseases interrupt these circuits.
The Work: Dr. Jessell discovered the genetic and molecular pathways that lead to the complex development of the spinal cord. This enhances our understanding of how our nervous system communicates.
Why it matters: By understanding how sensory neurons and motor neurons communicate, we can fix the broken circuits and treat or cure traumatic damage caused by disease like ALS, stroke or spinal cord injury.
Tom Jessell is Claire Tow Professor in the Departments of Neuroscience, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University. He is also Co-Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science and the Mind Brain Behavior Initiative. Since 1985, Jessell has been an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Dr. Jessell is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the UK Academy of Medical Sciences, a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences, and a member of the Institute of Medicine. In 2008, Jessell was co-recipient of the inaugural Kavli Prize in Neuroscience. He has also received many other awards.
KEY PAPERS related to the discovery
Jessell, T.M. and Iversen, L.L. (1977). Opiate analgesics inhibit substance P release from rattrigeminal nucleus. Nature: 268, 549-551 Tessier-Lavigne, M., Placzek, M., Lumsden, AG.S., Dodd, J. and Jessell, T.M. (1988).
Chemotropic guidance of developing axons in the mammalian central nervous system. Nature 336, 775-778 Arber, S., Ladle, D., Lin, J., Frank, E. and Jessell, T.M. (2000). ETS gene Er81 controls the formation of functional connections between group sensory afferents and motor neurons. Cell, 101, 485-498
Dasen, J.S., Tice, B.C., Brenner-Morton, S. and Jessell, T.M. (2005). A Hox regulatory network establishing motor neuron pool identity and target muscle connectivity. Cell 123, 477-491