The Nobel Prize for Medicine was jointly awarded to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their work in discovering temperature and touch receptors.
“Our ability to feel the heat, the cold and the touch it is essential to our survival and sustains interaction with the world around us. In our everyday lives, we take these natural sensations for granted, but how are nerve impulses initiated so that temperature and pressure can be sensed? This issue has been resolved by this year’s Nobel Prize winners”, can be read in the statement released this morning by the Swedish academy.
David Julius “used capsaicin, a pungent compound in chilli that induces a burning sensation, to identify a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to heat.”
Already Ardem Patapoutian “used pressure-sensitive cells to discover a new class of sensors that respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs.”
According to the academy, “These groundbreaking discoveries have launched intense research activities, leading to a rapid increase in our understanding of how the nervous system senses heat, cold and mechanical stimuli. The laureates identified essential links that were missing in our understanding of the complex interaction between our senses and the environment”.
David Julius was born in New York in 1955 and is currently a professor at the University of California. Ardem Patapoutian was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1967, but moved to the United States as a young man and is now a scientist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.