What has happened?
- The first of the 2021 Nobel Prizes kicked off the week of announcements of the most coveted award.
- David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian won the 2021 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.
Nobel prize for what?
- Our ability to sense heat, cold and touch is essential for survival and underpins our interaction with the world around us.
- In our daily lives we take these sensations for granted, but how are nerve impulses initiated so that temperature and pressure can be perceived?
- This question has been solved by this year’s Nobel Prize laureates.
- David Julius utilized capsaicin, a pungent compound from chili peppers that induces 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 novel class of sensors that respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs.
- These breakthrough discoveries launched intense research activities leading to a rapid increase in our understanding of how our nervous system senses heat, cold, and mechanical stimuli.
- The laureates identified critical missing links in our understanding of the complex interplay between our senses and the environment.
Receptors in the skin
- A number of receptors are distributed throughout the skin to respond to various touch-related stimuli.
- These receptors include Meissner’s corpuscles, Pacinian corpuscles, Merkel’s disks, and Ruffini corpuscles.
- Meissner’s corpusclesrespond to pressure and lower frequency vibrations, and Pacinian corpuscles detect transient pressure and higher frequency vibrations.
- Merkel’s disksrespond to light pressure, while Ruffini corpuscles detect stretch.
- There are three main groups of receptors in our skin:
- Mechanoreceptors, responding to mechanical stimuli, such as stroking, stretching, or vibration of the skin;
- Thermoreceptors, responding to cold or hot temperatures;
- Chemoreceptors, responding to certain types of chemicals either applied externally or released within the skin (such as histamine from an inflammation).
What is the criteria for winner?
- “Alfred Nobel was very clear in his will when he listed the criteria for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
- He specifically stated he was looking for a discovery that would have a benefit to humankind so our criteria is very narrow.
- We’re looking for a discovery that has either opened doors and helped us think about a problem in a new way, or the discovery has changed the way we think about a problem it’s paradigm shifting.”
- The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1.14 million).
- The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.
- There will be no banquet in Stockholm this year and laureates will receive their Nobel Prize medals and diplomas in their home countries.
- The traditional festivities were replaced last year as well with a mainly digital celebration as the pandemic raged Europe and the rest of the world.
Q) The 2020 Nobel Medicine Prize went for?
- Discovery of the Hepatitis C virus
- How cells react different oxygen levels
- Discoveries on internal biological clock
- Work on autophagy