Research Expertise and Interest

Ion channel function, synaptic plasticity, neural excitability, synaptic transmission, the synapse

Research Description

Ehud Isacoff is a professor of neurobiology in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology.  The work in his lab is focused on in four intersecting areas: a) Mechanisms of ion channel function, b) Synapse development and plasticity, c) Neural circuit function, and d) Design of novel probes for the optical detection and manipulation of neuronal signaling. The projects all involve optical spectroscopy, imaging and electrophysiology.

In the News

Weill Neurohub will fuel race to find new treatments for brain disease

With a $106 million gift from the Weill Family Foundation, UC Berkeley (Berkeley), UC San Francisco (UCSF) and the University of Washington (the UW) have launched the Weill Neurohub, an innovative research network that will forge and nurture new collaborations between neuroscientists and researchers working in an array of other disciplines—including engineering, computer science, physics, chemistry, and mathematics—to speed the development of new therapies for diseases and disorders that affect the brain and nervous system.

With single gene insertion, blind mice regain sight

University of California, Berkeley, scientists inserted a gene for a green-light receptor into the eyes of blind mice and, a month later, they were navigating around obstacles as easily as mice with no vision problems. The researchers say that, within as little as three years, the gene therapy — delivered via an inactivated virus — could be tried in humans who’ve lost sight because of retinal degeneration, ideally giving them enough vision to move around and potentially restoring their ability to read or watch video.

New therapy holds promise for restoring vision

A new genetic therapy developed by UC Berkeley scientists has not only helped blind mice regain light sensitivity sufficient to distinguish flashing from non-flashing lights, but also restored light response to the retinas of dogs, setting the stage for future clinical trials of the therapy in humans. The therapy involves inserting photoswitches into retinal cells that are normally ‘blind.’

On Memory’s Trail

Ehud Isacoff and his colleagues explore the brain at several levels critical to ultimately understand how memories form and what can threaten their demise. He is the Director of Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.

Neural circuit ensures zebrafish will not bite off more than it can chew

UC Berkeley neuroscientists have found that when zebrafish larvae see large objects, like leaves or other zebrafish, inhibitory nerve cells fire in the brain to tamp down a prey response. But when the larvae see small, prey-size objects, fewer inhibitory nerve cells fire and the fish quickly responds. This simple neural circuit helps explain the visual filters that enable prey capture.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
March 18, 2019
Michael McGough
Using a new and relatively simple gene-therapy treatment, Berkeley scientists have restored enough sight in previously blind mice that within a month they were navigating their environment with the same ease as sighted mice. The treatment involved just one injection of a gene for a green-light receptor into the eyes. "With neurodegenerative diseases of the retina, often all people try to do is halt or slow further degeneration," says molecular and cell biology professor Ehud Isacoff, director of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and one of the study's co-authors. "But something that restores an image in a few months -- it is an amazing thing to think about." The findings offer hope to roughly 170 million people around the world with age-related macular degeneration, and 1.7 million people with a common form of inherited blindness, called retinitis pigmentosa. The team is now raising money to begin human trials in the next three years. For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in dozens of sources, including the San Francisco Chronicle Online and Interesting Engineering.
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