Nobel Prize in medicine for discovery of temperature, touch receptors

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Two US-based scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for their discovery of the receptors that allow humans to feel temperature and touch.

David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian focused their work on the field of somatosensation, that is the ability of specialized organs such as eyes, ears and skin to see, hear and feel.

This really unlocks one of the secrets of nature, said Thomas Perlmann, secretary-general of the Nobel Committee, in announcing the winners. It’s actually something that is crucial for our survival, so it’s a very important and profound discovery.

The committee said Julius, 65, used capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers, to identify the nerve sensors that allow the skin to respond to heat.

Patapoutian found separate pressure-sensitive sensors in cells that respond to mechanical stimulation, it said.

The pair shared the prestigious Kavli Award for Neuroscience last year.

Last year’s prize went to three scientists who discovered the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus, a breakthrough that led to cures for the deadly disease and tests to keep the scourge from spreading though blood banks.

The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1.14 million). The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.

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