NOBEL PRIZE FOR PHYSIOLOGY OR MEDICINE 2021
5th October, 2021 Science and Technology
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- American scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian have won the 2021 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.
- Julius has been studying the different compounds in chili peppers and spider venom to understand how our bodies sense heat and chemical irritants.
- Decoding the neuroscience of pain can help develop new targets for pain therapy.
- Patapoutian helped discover a novel class of sensors in our skin and internal organs that respond to cold and other mechanical stimuli.
- They detailed how capsaicin, or the chemical compound in chilli peppers, causes the burning sensation.
- They created a library of DNA fragments to understand the corresponding genes and finally discovered a new capsaicin receptor and named it TRPV1.
- This discovery paved the way for the identification of many other temperature-sensing receptors.
- They identified another new receptor called TRPM8, a receptor that is activated by cold.
- They explained that this new receptor is specifically expressed in a subset of pain-and-temperature-sensing neurons.
- They further studied if these receptors can be activated by mechanical stimuli.
- They poked cells with a micropipette and identified a cell line that produced an electric signal in response.
- They identified a single gene, which when silenced made the cells insensitive to the poking.
- They named this new mechanosensitive ion channel Piezo1.
- This knowledge [of the TRPV1, TRPM8 and Piezo channels] is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of disease conditions, including chronic pain.