Scientists who discovered how we sense heat, cold, and touch have been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institutet awarded David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian the prize jointly for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.
The Laureates explored how nerve impulses are sent in the body to allow temperature and pressure to be felt. The findings could bring new breakthroughs in treating pain conditions.
So, how did they make these groundbreaking discoveries? David Julius used capsaicin – a compound made from chilli peppers that causes a burning sensation — to locate a sensor in the never endings of the skin that reacts to heat.
Ardem Patapoutian used pressure-sensitive cells to find a new class of sensors that react to stimuli in the skin and internal organs.
The Laureates identified the missing links in scientists’ understanding of senses and their relation to the environment.
According to a statement from The Nobel Assembly, “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.”