On Monday, October 4, a pair of US scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Monday “for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.”
The Nobel laureates’ discoveries have unlocked one of the secrets of nature by explaining the molecular basis for sensing heat, cold and mechanical force, which is fundamental for our ability to feel, interpret and interact with our internal and external environment.
They researched how to reduce chronic and acute pain associated with a range of diseases, trauma, and treatments.
The Nobel committee said in a news release. “Our ability to sense heat, cold, and touch is essential for survival and underpins our interaction with the world around us,” “In our daily lives we take these sensations for granted, but how are nerve impulses initiated so that temperature and pressure can be perceived?”
“These breakthrough discoveries launched intense research activities leading to a rapid increase in our understanding of how our 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,” further added.
Julius is from the University of California, San Francisco, and Patapoutian from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Scripps Research in the US.
Due to the uncertainty of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s Nobel Prize laureates will receive their awards in their home countries for the second year running, the Nobel Foundation had announced.
The traditional banquet will be canceled, but the award ceremony will be held at Stockholm’s City Hall on December 10 in the presence of a local audience, Xinhua news agency quoted the Foundation as saying in a statement recently.
“I think everybody would like the Covid-19 pandemic to be over, but we are not there yet,” Vidar Helgesen, Executive Director of the Nobel Foundation, was quoted as saying in the statement.
Last year’s banquet was also canceled.
Why did they win?
Julius made use of capsaicin — a pungent compound found in chili peppers that induces a burning sensation, to identify a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to heat, while Patapoutian used pressure-sensitive cells to discover a novel class of sensors that respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet said in a statement.
Who are the winners?
Scientist David Julius is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. He teaches psychology. In the year 1990s, his study into the chemical compound from the chili – capsaicin revolutionized the way scientists understand the burning sensation created by chili peppers. With a team of co-workers, he created a library containing millions of DNA fragments that are expressed in sensory neurons in response to pain, heat, and touch.
Ardem Patapoutian is a Lebanese-American molecular biologist and neuroscientist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, which focuses on “identifying and characterizing ion channels and other sensors that translate mechanical stimuli to chemical signals,” according to the Institue’s website.
With inputs from IANS