The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2021 was awarded jointly to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian "for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch."

Winners of Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2021, US scientists David Julius and Ardem
news Nobel Prize Monday, October 04, 2021 - 15:47

“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? This question has been solved by this year’s Nobel Prize laureates,” reads a write-up on 2021 Nobel Prize for Medicine, which has been awarded jointly to US scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian. They were cited for their discovery of receptors for temperature and touch. The winners were announced Monday by Thomas Perlmann, secretary-general of the Nobel Committee.

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. 

“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,” a statement by the The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet says. 

This really unlocks one of the secrets of nature, said Perlmann. It's actually something that is crucial for our survival, so it's a very important and profound discovery.

Last year's prize went to three scientists who discovered the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus, a breakthrough that led to cures for the deadly disease and tests to keep the scourge from spreading through blood banks.

The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (over 1.14 million). The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895. The prize is the first to be awarded this year. The other prizes are for outstanding work in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics. 

With PTI inputs