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2 US scientists win Nobel Prize in medicine for showing how we react to heat, touch

Nobel Medicine
Posted at 7:32 AM, Oct 04, 2021

Two American scientists have won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discovery of receptors for temperature and touch.

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet announced Monday morning that it’s awarding the honor to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian.

Nobel Medicine
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov, 3, 2019 file photo, 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences winner David Julius poses at the 8th Annual Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at NASA Ames Research Center on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Mountain View, Calif. (Photo by Peter Barreras/Invision/AP, File)

The Nobel Prize organization says Julius and Patapoutian solved how nerve impulses are initiated so that temperate and pressure can be perceived.

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, according to the organization.

And Patapoutian reportedly used pressure-sensitive cells to discover a novel class of sensors that respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs.

These discoveries launched research activities that officials say led to a rapid increase in our understanding of how the human nervous system senses heat, cold, and mechanical stimuli.

“The laureates identified critical missing links in our understanding of the complex interplay between our senses and the environment,” said the organization.

Julius, 65, is a physiologist who works as a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, while Patapoutian is a molecular biologist and neuroscientist at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California.