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 was Claire Tow Professor in the Departments of Neuroscience, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University. He was also Co-Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science and the Mind Brain Behavior Initiative. Between 1985-2018 Tom Jessell was 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.