| 16 October 2021, Saturday |

Two Americans win Medicine Nobel Prize for sensory findings

On Monday, American scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discoveries of temperature and touch receptors, which could pave the way for novel painkillers, according to the award-giving organization.

The Nobel Assembly at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute stated their results “have allowed us to comprehend how heat, cold, and mechanical stress can trigger the nerve impulses that allow us to sense and adapt to the environment around us.”

“This information is being utilized to develop treatments for a variety of diseases, including chronic pain,” says the researcher.

The breakthrough discoveries, achieved independently of one another, had launched intense research activities that had led to “a rapid increase in our understanding of how our nervous system senses heat, cold and mechanical stimuli,” it said.

The more than century-old prize is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.15 million).

In the will of Swedish dynamite inventor and industrialist Alfred Nobel, the famed Nobel prizes for achievements in science, literature, and peace were established and supported. They’ve been given out since 1901, with the economics prize being given out for the first time in 1969.

The Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, which the two laureates received equally this year, is frequently overshadowed by the Nobel Prizes for Literature and Peace, and its sometimes more well-known recipients.

However, the COVID-19 epidemic has brought medicine into the forefront, and some experts have indicated that people who create coronavirus vaccinations should be rewarded this year or in the following years.


According to the commission, the laureates for 2021 were caught off guard.

Professor Thomas Perlmann, Secretary-General of the Nobel Assembly and the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, remarked, “They were tremendously thrilled and, as far as I could tell, very startled and a little bit shocked.”

The pandemic is still looming over the Nobel Prize ceremonies, which are usually filled with old-world pomp and glitz. The banquet in Stockholm has been rescheduled for the second year in a row due to concerns about the virus and foreign travel.

Patapoutian, who was born in 1967 to Armenian parents in Lebanon and moved to Los Angeles in his youth, is a Professor at Scripps Research, La Jolla, California, having previously done research at the University of California, San Francisco, and California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

He is credited for finding the celular mechanism and the underlying gene that translates a mechanical force on our skin into an electric nerve signal.

New York-born Julius, 65, is a Professor at University of California, San Francisco, after earlier work at Columbia University, in New York.

His findings on the skin’s sense of temperature was based on how certain cells react to capsaicin, the molecule that makes chili peppers spicy by simulating a false sensation of heat.