Two US-based scientists won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for their research on how the human body perceives temperature and touch, which can help to treat chronic and acute pain, the Associated Press reported.
In their award-winning research, scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian identified how skin receptors respond to heat and pressure.
The Nobel committee said that Julius, who works at the University of California at San Francisco, used capsaicin, a component in chili peppers, to identify how the nerve sensors allow human skin to respond to heat.
Patapoutian, who works for the Scripps Research Institute, also found separate pressure-sensors in cells that respond to mechanical stimulation.
Julius and Patapoutian’s work was centered on the field of somatosensation, which explores the ability of specialized organs to see, hear and feel, according to the AP.
“This really unlocks one of the secrets of nature,” the Nobel’s Committee secretary-general, Thomas Perlmann, said when announcing the winners. “It’s actually something that is crucial for our survival, so it’s a very important and profound discovery.”
It was the first Nobel prize awarded this year, earning Julius and Patapoutian a gold medal and over $1.14 million in prize money, the AP reported.
2020’s Nobel prize in medicine was awarded to three scientists who discovered the hepatitis C virus, which then led to the development of cures for the deadly disease and tests to keep it from spreading.