2008: Nathans & Yau
King-Wai Yau made major contributions to elucidating the light responses of rods and cones and to solving the underlying phototransduction mechanism, including establishing cGMP as the messenger for photo-excitation and Ca2+ as the messenger for photo-adaptation. He also contributed greatly to understanding the intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, which are non-rod/non-cone photoreceptors mediating circadian photoentrainment and other nonimageforming visual functions. Among other discoveries, he found that vitelliform macular dystrophy results from mutations of a new chloride channel protein. Dr. Yau’s work may provide a significant step towards uncovering fundamental molecular mechanisms of vision.
Jeremy Nathans has made fundamental discoveries in basic and clinical vision science. Nathans isolated the genes encoding the human visual pigments; he defined the molecular and biochemical basis of inherited variation in color vision; he elucidated the biochemical basis of multiple inherited retinopathies; and he discovered unexpected mechanisms that regulate rod and cone photoreceptor development. Nathans’ research has illuminated a broad landscape in human genetics, molecular and cellular neurobiology, developmental biology, and ophthalmology.