David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian have won the 2021 Nobel Prize for Medicine. The two scientists, one from the United States and the other from Lebanon, were awarded “for their discoveries on temperature and touch receptors”. The announcement came in the morning of October 4, 2021 from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. Julius and Patapoutian go to 10 million Swedish kronor, almost 986 thousand euros.
Who are David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian
David Julius is 65 years old: he was born in New York, in the Brighton Beach district, on November 4, 1955. He teaches at the University of California, San Francisco. Ardem Patapoutian was born in Beirut in 1967 and moved to the United States in 1986. After studying at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and then at the University of California in San Francisco, since 2000 he has worked at the Californian Scripps Institute in La Jolla.
What they were awarded for
David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian were awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the receptors at the base of touch and the mechanisms that regulate the perception of cold and heat. Their discovery paved the way for the understanding of the way in which man is able to perceive the external environment through the sensations perceived through the skin. Perceptions of cold and heat, but also of touch, which – explained the Nobel jury – in everyday life we take for granted but which are linked to complex mechanisms, very ancient and crucial for survival. The research of the two scientists has shed light on their functioning. Julius, the Nobel Academy explained, used a pepper compound called capsaicin, which induces a burning sensation: this was the first step in identifying the nerve endings in the skin that react to heat. Patapoutian has instead focused his research on pressure-sensitive cells, discovering both on the skin and in the internal organs of sensors that respond to mechanical stimuli. Thanks to these discoveries, intense research activity has been launched which recently led to clarifying how our nervous system perceives heat, cold and mechanical stimuli. These researches have also found applications in the treatment of chronic pain.