Scientists whose work led to the discovery of the human receptors that allow us to touch and feel temperature, have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, two American scientists have done ground-breaking work in the field of somatosensation – the ability of organs with specialized functions, such as ears, eyes, and skin to hear, see and feel.
Their work has led to a better understanding of how cold, heat, and touch can stimulate signals in the nervous system, thereby proving to be a crucial basis for numerous research activities that studied how the nervous system senses touch and temperature.
“This really unlocks one of the secrets of nature,” said Thomas Perlmann, secretary-general of the Nobel Committee, while announcing the winners. “It’s actually something that is crucial for our survival, so it’s a very important and profound discovery.”
The two scientists did not work together and carried out their research independently. However, both their work involved identifying specific genes that were responsible for the detection of either touch or heat.
Using capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers, David Julius identified the nerve sensors that allow the human skin to detect and respond to heat. While Ardem Patapoutian detected pressure-sensitive sensors that respond to mechanical stimulation in cells, according to a statement by the Nobel committee.
David Julius is a former postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, and currently a professor at the University of California in San Francisco.
Ardem Patapoutian is a Lebanese immigrant, who moved to the United States when he was young. Sin 2014, he has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and currently works at the Scripps Research California.
The Nobels are the most prestigious awards in the world, awarded two people who “have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind” in five separate fields, namely Physiology or Medicine, Economics, Chemistry, Physics, Literature, and Peace.
The winners get a gold medal and over $1.14 million in monetary reward.
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