The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded this Monday to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian “For his discoveries of temperature and touch receptors”, at the opening of the 2021 season of the famous awards, reported the Nobel Assembly of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
Their discoveries “have explained how heat, cold and touch can initiate signals in our nervous system. The ion channels identified are important for many physiological processes and diseases ”, highlighted the organizers.
They also noted that the research of the US winners is focused on elucidating their roles in a variety of physiological processes and their results are used to develop treatments for a number of diseases, including chronic pain.
The winners outnumbered the favorites, Hungarian Katalin Karico and American Drew Weissman, pioneers of RNA vaccines and professors at the University of Pennsylvania.
At the end of the 90s, David Julius, from the University of California in San Francisco (USA), saw the possibility of making great advances when analyzing how the chemical compound capsaicin causes the burning sensation that we feel when we come in contact with spicy of chili peppers and chili peppers. The gene that detects capsaicin had been found!
When Julius investigated the protein’s ability to respond to heat, he realized that he had discovered a heat-sensing receptor that activates at temperatures perceived as painful.
As the mechanisms of temperature sensation developed, it remained unclear how mechanical stimuli could be converted into our senses of touch and pressure. Ardem Patapoutian, who works at Scripps Research in La Jolla (California, USA), wanted to identify the elusive receptors that are activated by mechanical stimuli.
Patapoutian and his collaborators first identified a cell line that emitted a measurable electrical signal when individual cells were punctured with a micropipette. The team was able to identify a single gene whose silencing made cells insensitive to micropipette punctures. A totally unknown new mechanosensitive ion channel had been discovered and given the name Piezo1.
“The revolutionary discoveries of the TRPV1 (capsaicin receptor), TRPM8 (cold-activated receptor) and Piezo (mechanosensitive ion channel) channels have made it possible to understand how heat, cold and mechanical force can initiate the nerve impulses that allow us to perceive and adapt to the world around us, ”the press release explained.
The Nobel season continues tomorrow Tuesday in Stockholm with physics and Wednesday with chemistry, before the two most anticipated, literature on Thursday and peace on Friday, the latter announced in Oslo.
The economics award will be revealed on Monday of next week.
Although the selection and announcement process of the winners will follow the usual pattern, the same will not happen with their delivery: the Nobel Foundation announced a couple of weeks ago that the December 10 ceremony will have a reduced format and that the awards will be delivered in the countries of origin or residence of the distinguished ones.
It remains to be seen if the Norwegian Nobel Committee will do the same with the Peace Prize, which is awarded and awarded in Oslo at the express wish of the creator of the centennial awards, the Swedish magnate Alfred Nobel, since Norway was part of the Kingdom of Sweden.
All Nobel laureates follow a similar election process: scientists, academics or university professors nominate their candidates and the different Nobel committees establish several screens to choose the winner or winners, up to three per prize.
And they have the same financial endowment, this year of 10 million Swedish crowns (980,000 euros, 1.1 million dollars). (Infobae)