placeholder newsslider

European Vision Awardee 2011

Carlos Belmonte
image Carlos Belmonte

The European Vision Institute EEIG proudly presents the winner of the European Vision Award 2011:

Professor Carlos Belmonte
Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante, Universidad Miguel Hernández-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Alicante, Spain

Carlos Belmonte has made seminal contributions to the functional characterization of the non-visual sensory innervation of the eye. Using cellular, electrophysiological and behavioural techniques, he unveiled the functional characteristics of ocular sensory nerves and their role in ocular sensations as well as in the neural regulation of various ocular functions (tearing, blinking, regulation of ocular blood flow and intraocular pressure), on corneal trophism and on wound healing.

His findings represent a fundamental advance in our present knowledge of the neurobiological basis of ocular discomfort, pain and dysesthesias, both in normality and in a number of pathological situations such as dry eye, contact lens wearing, herpes, diabetes and postsurgical pain.

In addition, Prof. Belmonte has developed a new esthesiometer (the Belmonte Esthesiometer) that measures separately the different modalities of corneal and conjunctival sensation in humans, allowing a more complete clinical evaluation of the ocular surface sensitivity. He has also contributed to identify the participation of sensory neuropeptides in corneal wound healing, discovered the existence of sensory and autonomic fibers activated by intraocular pressure changes and, very recently established the role of cold ocular fibers in the maintenance of basal tear secretion.

Prof. Belmonte has made also important contributions to general sensory neurobiology in the area of peripheral transduction by somatic and visceral primary sensory neurons deciphering some of the molecular and cellular mechanisms for pain and temperature transduction. Schematically, his main scientific discoveries are:

In Eye research:

  1. The demonstration that TRPM8 is the transducing channel for cold receptor fibers of the cornea and that its genetic deletion silences temperature-dependent impulse activity and reduces basal tearing, thereby discovering that the tonic input to the CNS from cold receptors, contributes to maintain basal tear production (Nature Medicine, 2010)
  2. The first functional characterization of the different types of sensory fibers and neurons innervating ocular tissues  (J. Physiol.1981, 1993; Neuroscience, 2000) and the correlation between neural activity in these sensory fibers and human sensations in the ocular surface (IOVS 1999; J. Physiol.2001).
  3. The demonstration of a trophic dependence between corneal epithelium cells and trigeminal sensory neurons, as well as the role of Substance P in this process (IOVS, 1990; Exp. Eye Res. 1994).
  4. The demonstration that intraocular pressure (IOP) variations within physiological limits activate afferent sensory nerve fibers that transmit to the CNS a sensory message about IOP values. Also, the first published experimental evidence that IOP variations elicit concomitant reflex changes in nervous activity of autonomic (sympathetic and parasympathetic) nerve fibers (Exp. Eye Res, 1971, 1973).

In Sensory Neurobiology research:

  1. First electrophysiological characterization of cold thermosensitive primary sensory neurons and discovery that different potassium currents contribute to cold transduction and thermal sensitivity of cold thermoreceptors (Nature Neurosci. 2002; J. Neurosci., 2009).
  2. The first direct recording of electrical currents in identified single mammalian sensory nerve terminals (J. Physiol. 1998; 2001).
  3. The demonstration that genetic deletion of the NK1 receptor for Substance P in mice alters nociception, analgesia and aggression (Nature, 1998).
  4. The first direct proof that nociceptive nerve terminals subserving pain have separate membrane mechanisms for transduction of mechanical and chemical noxious stimuli (J. Physiol.,1991) thus predicting the existence of TRPV1 channels in nociceptors.
  5. The first demonstration that electrical properties of primary sensory neurons are dependent on the type of peripheral sensory receptor to which they are connected (J.Physiol.1983, 1985).

The work of Prof. Belmonte has received wide international recognition, particularly in recent years, due to the growing importance that ocular pain and discomfort are acquiring in clinical Ophthalmology. His pioneering studies on the functional characteristics of ocular sensory innervation became established doctrine and are now part of textbooks.

More about the European Vision Award and its 2011 awardee

Read the interview of Carlos Belmonte as the European Vision Awardee 2011.

Curriculum Vitae

Carlos Belmonte combined his research activity with a distinguished academic career and has trained many of the most prominent professors and researchers in Medical Physiology and Neurosciences of Spain.

He became Full Professor of Physiology in the Medical School of University of Madrid at the age of 27. In 1971, he was awarded with an International Fellowship from the Fogarty International Center, NIH, USA and expends 2 years in the Dept. of Physiology, University of Utah, working on electrophysiology of chemoreceptors with Carlos Eyzaguirre and of invertebrate photoreceptors with the Nobel Laureate Keffer H. Hartline.

At his return to Spain in 1973, he was appointed Professor and Chairman of Physiology in the Medical School of Valladolid.

In 1980 he was appointed Vicepresident of the University of Alicante that he helped to create being elected afterwards the first Dean of its Medical School.

In the University of Alicante Prof. Belmonte also founded and directed during the last 20 years, the Instituto de Neurociencias, a joint research Center of the University and the National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas). This Institute has become the largest and most prestigious institution devoted to brain research in Spain.

Prof. Belmonte has maintained a very active international scientific life. He has been Visiting Professor at the Universities of Harvard and Utah (USA), visiting scientist at the Eye Research Institute, Retina Foundation, Boston (USA) and at the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, Sydney Australia.

He is also an associated researcher at the CRCERT (Sydney, Australia) and is a member of the editorial board of the European Journal of Neurosciences, Pain, Experimental Eye Research, Primary Sensory Neuron, Molecular Pain, Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry.

Prof. Belmonte has been the Secretary-General and is currently the President of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO). He has been President of the Spanish Society of Neurocience and Secretary and President of the International Society for Eye Research. He is member of the Academia Europaea, of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Spain and of the Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz, Germany.

Carlos Belmonte, is presently professor of Physiology at the Instituto de Neurociencias, Universidad Miguel Hernandez-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas in San Juan de Alicante, Alicante, Spain.