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Nobel Prize in medicine awarded to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch

The two US-based scientists received the accolade for describing the mechanics of how humans perceive temperature and pressure through nerve impulses.

Julius is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Patapoutian is a professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California.

“Our ability to sense heat, cold and touch is essential for survival and underpins our interaction with the world around us,” the Nobel Assembly said in a statement announcing the prize.

Patrik Ernfors (right), a member of the Nobel Committee for physiology or medicine, stands next to a screen displaying the winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize, David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian.

“David Julius utilized capsaicin, a pungent compound from chili peppers that induces a burning sensation, to identify a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to heat. Ardem Patapoutian used pressure-sensitive cells to discover a novel class of sensors that respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs,” it added.

Thomas Perlmann, the secretary of the Nobel Assembly and the Nobel Committee, said the discovery “unlocks the secrets of nature … It explains at a molecular level how these stimuli are converted into nerve signals. It’s an important and profound discovery.”

This is a developing story, more to follow.


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