David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian made breakthrough discoveries about how our nervous system senses heat, cold, and mechanical stimuli.
On Monday, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet decided to award the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian "for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch."
"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," according to a statement by the committee.
"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."
Intensive ongoing research originating from this year's Nobel Prize awarded discoveries focuses on elucidating their functions in a variety of physiological processes. This knowledge is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of disease conditions, including chronic pain.
The seminal discoveries by this year’s #NobelPrize laureates in physiology or medicine have explained how heat, cold and touch can initiate signals in our nervous system. The identified ion channels are important for many physiological processes and disease conditions. pic.twitter.com/TxMTwSDHas— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 4, 2021
Thomas Perlmann, secretary-general of the Nobel Committee and the Nobel Assembly, told a press conference that he contacted the laureates about the news and that they were "incredibility happy, and a bit shocked".
David Julius, born in 1955 in New York, United States, received a Ph.D. in 1984 from University of California, Berkeley and is now professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Ardem Patapoutian, born in 1967 in Beirut, Lebanon, received a Ph.D. in 1996 from California Institute of Technology, U.S., and he is now professor at Scripps Research, La Jolla, California.
According to the Nobel Foundation, this year's prize is about US$1.14 million, which will be equally shared among the two laureates.