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Two scientists won the Nobel Prize in Medicine on Monday for their discoveries about how the human body perceives temperature and touch, revelations that could lead to new ways of treating pain or even heart disease.

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The Americans David Julius and Ardem Petapotian identified receptors in the skin that respond to heat and pressure. His work focuses on the field of somatosensation, which explores the ability to see, hear and feel in particular organs such as the eyes, ears, and skin.

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Announcing the winners, Thomas Perlman, the Secretary-General of the Nobel Committee, said, “It really opens up one of the mysteries of nature.” “It’s really something that’s important to our existence, so it’s a very important and profound discovery.”

The committee said that Julius, who was born in New York and now works at the University of California at San Francisco, used capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, to identify nerve sensors that help the skin respond to heat. allows.

David Julius (L) and Ardem Patpoutian, winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, are screened during a press conference at the Karolinska Institutet on October 4, 2021 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Jonathan Knackstrand/)

Pataputian, who was born in Lebanon and now works at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, found different pressure-sensitive sensors in cells that respond to mechanical stimulation, it said.

“In our daily lives we take these sensations (of temperature and touch) for granted, but how are nerve impulses initiated to sense temperature and pressure?” The committee has written in the declaration. “That question has been solved by this year’s Nobel Prize winners.”

Perlman said he managed to capture both winners – who shared the coveted Kavli Prize for neuroscience last year – ahead of Monday’s announcement.

“I (…) only had a few minutes to talk to him, but he was incredibly happy,” he said. “And as far as I could tell they were very surprised and a little shocked, perhaps.”

The likes of Julius, 65, and Patapoutian underscore that little scientists know about how our bodies perceive the outside world prior to their discoveries—and how much remains to be learned, says MRC of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at King’s College Oscar Marin, the center’s director, said. London.

“While we understood the physiology of the senses, what we didn’t understand was how we sense differences in temperature or pressure,” Marin said. “Knowing how our body senses these changes is fundamental because once we know those molecules, they can be targeted. It’s like finding a lock and now we know the exact keys.” which will be required to unlock it.”

Marin said the discoveries opened up “an entire field of pharmacology” and that researchers were working to develop drugs to target the receptors already identified.

Marin predicted that new treatments for pain would come first, but knowing how the body detects changes in pressure could eventually lead to drugs for heart disease, if scientists could figure out how to control blood vessels and blood vessels. How to reduce pressure on other organs.

Last year’s prize went to three scientists who discovered the liver-damaging hepatitis C virus, a breakthrough that led to a cure for the deadly disease and tests to stop the disease spreading through blood banks.

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

This award is the first to be given this year. Other awards are for outstanding work in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics.

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