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How chili helped the winners

(CNN) – The The Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine 2021 It was awarded to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries of temperature and touch receptors.

The two American scientists won the prize for describing the mechanisms of how humans perceive heat and pressure through nerve impulses.

Patrick Ernfors (right), a member of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, next to a screen showing the 2021 Nobel Prize laureates David Julius and Erdem Patabutian.

Julius is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Patbutian is a professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California.

“Our ability to feel heat, cold and touch is essential to survival and underpins our interaction with the world around us,” the Nobel Assembly said in a statement announcing the award.

David Julius used capsaicin, a spicy compound found in hot peppers that causes a burning sensation, to identify a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to heat. Ardem Patapoutian used pressure-sensitive cells to discover a new class of sensors that respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs.

This discovery “reveals the mysteries of nature … explaining at the molecular level how these stimuli are converted into nerve signals. It is an important and profound discovery,” said Thomas Perelman, secretary of the Nobel Assembly and the Nobel Committee.

CNN’s Katie Hunt contributed reporting.

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