American scientist duo David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian won the Nobel Prize 2021 in Medicine for discovering touch and temperature receptors to help us to perceive and adapt to the changing world
New Delhi(Digpu News) –
The jury today announced the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to American scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian.
The winners will share the prize money of 10 million Swedish Kronor ($1.1 million). They have received the award for their groundbreaking discoveries about temperature and touch receptors.
Nobel laureates Andrew Patapoutian and David Julius
The ‘Nobel’ research
The jury said at the announcement ceremony that Nobel laureates have made us understand how cold, heat and mechanical force can initiate nerve impulse. The nerve impulses in turn help us to perceive and adapt to the changing conditions of the world.
David Julius used capsaicin, a pungent compound found in chilli peppers, which induces a burning sensation to identify a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to heat, the press release reported.
He wanted to identify capsaicin’s cellular target based on a belief that this would provide important insights into pain mechanisms. Julius used a cDNA library from sensory neurons in a functional screen to spot the gene that would tell about the capsaicin sensitivity to the cells. These cells usually do not respond.“The screening identified a cDNA that encodes a novel ion channel (now called TRPV1) belonging to the family of potential ion channel transient receptors. It is important to note that TRPV1 is activated by painfully perceived temperatures,” the committee statement read.
The laureates have independently made an advance with the discovery of TRPM8, a related cold-sensitive receptor. Additional TRP receptors were later identified and shown to ‘transduce thermal information into the somatosensory system’.
Nobel Laureate Patapoutian discovered a new class of responsive sensors
Meanwhile, Ardem Patapoutian had used pressure-sensitive cells to reveal a novel class of responsive sensors to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs. These discoveries have led to intensive research on the understanding of how our nervous system senses heat, cold and mechanical stimuli.
“The laureates identified critical missing links in our understanding of the complex interplay between our senses and the environment,” the committee said.
He has used a functional screen of the candidate genes expressed in a mechanosensitive cell line to identify ion channels activated by mechanical stimuli, the committee reported. During the experiment, two mechanically activated ion channels — PIEZO1 and PIEZO2 were identified. These ion channels represented a new class of ion channels as mechanical sensors.
Patapoutian also discovered that PIEZO2 is an important mechanical transducer in somatic nerves. It is needed for our perception of touch and proprioception. He unveiled the major roles of PIEZO1 and PIEZO2 for many other physiological functions.
Feature Image Credits: Twitter/NobelPrize