The discoveries of the receptors of temperature and touch take, by surprise, the Nobel Prize in Medicine of 2021
The moment has come. A few minutes ago, like almost every year for a century, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden just kicked off Nobels Awards week by awarding the Medicine and Physiology Prize of 2021. An award that this year (perhaps for the role of biosanitary sciences during the pandemic) has received special attention.
A few minutes ago, the committee awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for “their discoveries of touch and temperature receptors“.
The award, explained in a minute
In other words, this year’s winners made two discoveries that have helped us to understand how heat, cold, and mechanical force can initiate nerve impulses that allow us to perceive and adapt to the world around us. It may seem trivial, but until very recently the mechanism underlying these sensations was totally unknown.
On the one hand, Ardem Patapoutian used pressure-sensitive cells to discover a new class of sensors that respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs. On the other hand, David Julius used capsaicin, one of the hot compounds in peppers that induces the sensation of itching, to identify a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to heat.