Sense of touch and heat research wins Nobel Prize

Sense of touch and heat research wins Nobel Prize
Source: EPA
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Daily US Times: Scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, who discovered how our bodies feel the warmth of the sun or sense of touch have won the Nobel Prize.

The US scientists share the 2021 prize in Medicine or Physiology for their work on sensing temperature and touch.

The scientists unpicked how human bodies convert physical sensations into electrical messages in the nervous system.

Their discovery could lead to new ways of treating pain.

Cold, heat and touch are crucial for experiencing the world around us and for our own survival.

But how our bodies actually feel those feelings had been one of the great mysteries of biology.

Nobel Prize Committee’s Thomas Perlman said: “It was a very important and profound discovery.”

Prof David Julius’s breakthrough, at the University of California came from investigating the burning pain we feel from eating a hot chilli pepper.

Mr Julius experimented with the source of a chilli’s heat – the chemical capsaicin.

The scientist discovered the specific type of receptor that responded to capsaicin.

Further tests showed the receptor (a part of our cells that detects the world around them) was responding to heat and kicked in at “painful” temperatures. This is what happens, say, if you burn your hand on a cup of coffee.

The discovery led to a flurry of other temperature-sensors being discovered. Prof Ardem and Prof Julius Patapoutian found one that could detect cold.

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