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Members of the Nobel Committee are shown as a screen displays the winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on Oct. 4. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch," the award's committee said Monday.

Driving the news: The pair's research led "to a rapid increase in our understanding of how our nervous system senses heat, cold and mechanical stimuli," per the announcement.

  • "The laureates identified critical missing links in our understanding of the complex interplay between our senses and the environment."
  • Julius used capsaicin, a pungent compound from chili peppers that induces a burning sensation, to isolate a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to heat.
  • Patapoutian used pressure-sensitive cells to discover a class of sensors that respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs.

The big picture: The pair of researchers received the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience in 2020 for their discovery of molecules that allow us to feel heat, cold, inflammation and other physical sensations.

  • Julius is a professor of physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, and Patapoutian is a professor at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

What to watch: Two additional science Nobel Prizes will be announced this week — physics on Tuesday and chemistry on Wednesday — and other prizes, including in literature and economic science will be announced on Thursday and Friday.

Go deeper

Oct 7, 2021 - World

Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah wins Nobel literature prize

Abdulrazak Gurnah. Photo: Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah on Tuesday was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for works that explore the effects of colonialism.

Driving the news: The Swedish Academy said Gurnah received the award "for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents."

Rahm Emanuel questioned on murder of Laquan McDonald in confirmation hearing

Rahm Emanuel during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Oct. 20. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke about the murder of Laquan McDonald during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to become the U.S. ambassador to Japan, saying that "there's not a day or a week that has gone by in the last seven years I haven't thought about this."

Catch up quick: McDonald was a Black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago police during Emanuel's tenure as the city's mayor. The 2014 shooting triggered massive protests, both because of its nature and the fact that the officers' body-cam footage was concealed for years.

3 hours ago - World

Biden's ambassador nominee: "China is not an Olympian power"

Nick Burns testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee to serve as ambassador to China delivered a stark assessment of the challenges the U.S. faces in confronting Beijing, but stressed that the rising superpower is "not all-powerful" and the West retains "substantial" advantages.

The big picture: Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, used his confirmation hearing Wednesday to echo the growing bipartisan consensus that China poses "the greatest threat to the security of our country and the democratic world" in the 21st century.