Benjamin Gaub studied Biochemistry at the Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU) in Munich before going abroad to do his PhD at UC Berkeley in California. In the labs of Ehud Isacoff and John Flannery he got very interested in optical control of biological function.
During his doctoral work, he engineered light-gated proteins based on ligand gated receptors that can be activated or inhibited by light. Later, he went on to apply these light gated receptors towards restoration of visual function in animal models of human blindness. Most inherited forms of human blindness are caused by mutations that lead to photoreceptor cell death, but spare the inner retina, providing an opportunity for treatment. Using viruses as gene delivery vehicles, he expressed light-gated proteins in the remaining neurons of the retina. He asked if these cells would then function as the new photoreceptors and if they would be able to drive visual responses. The quick answer is: yes, they do.
In 2016, Benjamin joined the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering. He is currently doing his post doctoral work in Professor Mueller (D-BSSE) and Professor Roska’s lab (FMI) looking at mechanosensation and studying the mechanisms by which mechanical forces are transformed into ionic currents in human cells and neurons. With this knowledge he hopes to be able to use mechanically gated receptors as mechanical sensors that can be applied as building blocks for nanocells and nano reactors.