Viviana Gradinaru, Ph.D.
During her graduate work Dr. Gradinaru played an instrumental role in the early development and applications of optogenetics. For example, although now a mature field, in the early days of optogenetics starting with 2005 there were significant challenges: many opsins, especially pumps, were not well tolerated by mammalian cells and therefore could not be used in vivo. Dr. Gradinaru worked out subcellular and transcellular trafficking strategies that resulted in potent and safe optogenetic tools used nowadays. She then used these tools to challenge the traditional perception that Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) acts mainly by inhibiting local cell bodies at the stimulation site by showing that controlling axons in the stimulation area was sufficient to restore motor behavior in parkinsonian animals. Dr. Gradinaru also helped train scientists from all over the world in the Optogenetics Innovation Laboratory at Stanford and in summer courses at Cold Spring Harbor.
During her postdoctoral work, also at Stanford with Dr. Karl Deisseroth, Dr. Gradinaru pioneered work towards a novel method for intact tissue mapping and phenotyping (known as CLARITY). While working to bypass some of the limitations of first generation methods, the Gradinaru group at Caltech has reported the first case of whole-body clearing – transparent rodents that can be used to obtain detailed maps of both central and peripheral nerves at their target organs throughout the body.