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Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine, 2021

  • 05 Oct 2021
  • 3 min read

Why in News

Recently, two United States-based scientists, David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, have been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.

  • They have focused their work on the field of somatosensation, that is the ability of specialised organs such as eyes, ears and skin to see, hear and feel.

Key Points

  • About the Discoveries:
    • David Julius:
      • He discovered TRPV1, a heat-sensing receptor.
      • His findings on the skin’s sense of temperature was based on how certain cells react to capsaicin, the molecule that makes chili peppers spicy, by simulating a false sensation of heat.
    • Ardem Patapoutian:
      • He discovered two mechanosensitive ion channels known as the Piezo channels.
        • The Piezo1 is named after the Greek word for pressure, ‘píesi’.
      • He is credited for finding the cellular mechanism and the underlying gene that translates a mechanical force on our skin into an electric nerve signal.
  • Significance of Discoveries:
    • The findings have allowed us 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.
    • This knowledge is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of disease conditions, including chronic pain.


  • Somatosensation is a collective term for the sensations of touch, temperature, body position, and pain recognized through neural receptors in the skin and certain internal organs.
    • It includes processes such as” mechanoreception, thermoreception, proprioception.
  • Mechanosensitive channels are fascinating proteins, being able to serve both as sensors and effectors.
    • Embedded in membranes, they convert mechanical stimuli such as in-plane membrane tension and curvature into electrical or biochemical signals, leading to regulation of a wide repertoire of cellular processes allowing adaptive response.

About Nobel Prizes

  • The will of the Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel established the five Nobel prizes in 1895.
  • The Nobel Prizes are a set of recognition given to fields of Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine by The Nobel Foundation.
    • The Nobel Foundation is a private institution established in 1900, has ultimate responsibility for fulfilling the intentions in Alfred Nobel’s will.
  • The prizes in Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine were first awarded in 1901.
  • In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank established the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Source: DTE

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