The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly presented to David Julius and Aldem Patapoutian on Monday.
Dr. Julius, a professor of physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, used the key components of chili peppers to identify proteins on nerve cells that respond to unpleasant high temperatures.
Dr. Patapoutian, a molecular biologist at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, led a team that identified receptors that respond to pressure, tactile, and body part positions when poking individual cells with a small pipette. ..
“This knowledge is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of medical conditions, including chronic pain,” the Nobel Committee said in a news release.
Neither winner was easy to reach before the Nobel Committee announced the award around 2:30 am California time. In an interview, Dr. Julius said the phone rang with a text message from his sister-in-law. My sister-in-law received a call from the secretary-general of the Nobel Parliament, but it was Dr. Julius’s phone number.
Dr. Pataptian said the committee had finally reached his 94-year-old father on a landline, who told Dr. Pataptian, “I think you won the Nobel Prize.”
“I’m a little overwhelmed,” said Dr. Patapoutian a few hours later, “but I’m pretty happy.”
Why did they win?
The pair made a breakthrough discovery and began intense research activities. This has led to a rapid increase in understanding of how the nervous system perceives heat, cold, and mechanical stimuli. Winners have identified missing links that are important in understanding the complex interactions between our senses and the environment.
Dr. Julius used capsaicin, a stimulant compound in chili peppers, to identify sensors for nerve endings in the skin that induce a burning sensation and respond to heat.
Dr. Patapoutian has discovered a new class of sensors that use pressure-sensitive cells to respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs.
Why is work important?
The Nobel Committee said it helped two scientists answer one of the deepest questions about human condition: how do we feel our environment?
“The underlying mechanisms of our senses have caused our curiosity for thousands of years. For example, how light is detected by the eye and how sound waves affect the inner ear. Or how various chemicals interact with receptors in the nose and mouth to produce odors, taste. “
In the 17th century, the philosopher René Descartes envisioned the threads that connect different parts of the skin to the brain. Thus, when the flame touches your foot, a signal is sent to your brain. Subsequent studies have shown that sensory neurons record changes in our environment.
In 1944, Joseph Erlanger and Herbert Spencer discovered different types of sensory nerve fibers that responded to different stimuli, such as the response to painful and non-painful touches, in Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Won the award.
However, the underlying problem remains. How are temperature and mechanical stimuli converted into electrical impulses in the nervous system?
The work of Dr. Julius and Dr. Patapoutian provides for the first time an understanding of how heat, cold, and mechanical forces can initiate neural impulses and recognize and adapt to the surrounding world.
According to the committee, their research has already spurred intensive research on the development of treatments for a wide range of medical conditions, including chronic pain.
Born in Armenia, Dr. Patapoutian grew up in Lebanon during the country’s long and tragic civil war before fleeing to the United States with his brother at the age of 18 in 1986. Dr. Patapoutian worked eclectic for a year, delivered pizza and wrote a weekly horoscope in the Armenian newspaper.
At the University of California, Los Angeles, a professor joined the institute to write good recommendations to him in the process of preparing for an application to the School of Medicine.
“I was absorbed in doing basic research,” Dr. Patapoutian said in an interview. “It changed the course of my career.”
“In Lebanon, I didn’t even know about the careers of scientists,” he added.
Dr. Patapoutian said he became interested in the nervous system, but he seemed to be a simpler target than the brain itself, so he was drawn to studying tactile and pain sensations. He said the question of how sensory neurons pick up physical forces such as pressure and temperature was not well understood.
“If you find an area that isn’t well understood, it’s a great opportunity to delve into it,” he said.
Dr. Julius has also become obsessed with the question of how the body’s sensory receptors work. Originally from Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, he said he began thinking about his science career at the nearby Abraham Lincoln High School. There, a former minor league baseball player became a physics teacher and told his students about calculating the trajectory of baseball.
“He was the one who made me think,’Maybe I should do science,'” said Dr. Julius.
As a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and later as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, he sees how magic mushrooms and LSD work, and more broadly how things from nature interact with human receptors. He said he became interested in Crab.
No sensory system is as important to survival as pain, he said. And little was understood. So his lab began investigating the actions of a variety of unpleasant natural substances, including toxins from tarantula and coral snakes, capsaicin from chili peppers, and chemicals that stimulate western wasabi and wasabi.
Dr. Julius himself was not a fever eater.
“I’m one of those who enjoys eating habanero from the jar, but everything is in moderation,” he said.
In 2020, Dr. Julius and Dr. Patapoutian received the Norwegian Government’s Cavli Neuroscience Award for their groundbreaking discovery of proteins that help the body sense pressure.
Who won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine?
Dr. Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M. Rice were awarded for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus. The Nobel Committee said three scientists “enabled millions of life-saving blood tests and new drugs.”
Who else won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020?
When will other Nobel Prizes be announced?
There are two more science awards. Physics will be announced on Tuesday and chemistry will be announced on Wednesday, both in Stockholm.
The literary award will be announced Thursday in Stockholm. Read about last year’s winner, Louise Glück.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in Oslo on Friday. Read about last year’s winner, the World Food Program.
The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences will be announced in Stockholm on October 11th. Last year’s award was shared by Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson.