The Nobel Prize for Medicine honors an American duo specializing in touch

The Nobel Prize for Medicine honors an American duo specializing in touch
The Nobel Prize for Medicine honors an American duo specializing in touch

AFP, published on Monday 04 October 2021 at 12:51

The 2021 Nobel Prize for Medicine crowned the American David Julius and the American of Lebanese-Armenian origin Ardem Patapoutian on Monday for their discoveries on how the nervous system transmits temperature and touch.

Their “revolutionary discoveries” have “made it possible to understand how heat, cold and mechanical force can initiate the nerve impulses which allow us to perceive and adapt to the world”, greeted the Nobel jury in Stockholm.

Their work is used in research for many treatments, especially for chronic pain.

David Julius, 65 and a professor at the University of California, used capsaicin, an active component in chili peppers that causes a burning sensation, to identify a sensor in nerve endings in the skin that responds to heat.

12 years his junior and born in Beirut, Ardem Patapoutian, professor at the Scripps research institute, also in California, used pressure-sensitive cells to discover a new class of sensors that respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin. and internal organs.

“They are both incredible researchers who have opened the doors to sensory sensation in a totally unique way,” Thomas Perlmann, head of the Nobel Committee for Medicine, praised to reporters.

– “A hoax” –

During the night on the west coast of the United States, the Nobel Foundation managed with difficulty to reach the two laureates, he explained. “We had them on the phone at the last moment, we first chased the phone number of a father and a sister-in-law.”

The Foundation released a family photo of Ardem Patapoutian in his bed, congratulated by his son.

This award thwarted the predictions of experts, even if David Julius appeared since 2014 in the long list of scientific nobelists held by the organization Clarivate. He also won in 2019 the new and richly endowed Breakthrough Prize (3 million dollars) created by the founders of Google and Facebook.

“You never expect these things to happen (…) I thought it was a hoax”, said this native of New Yorkn (north-eastern United States), joined by the Swedish public radio.

For the 120th anniversary of the Nobels, this year specialists were betting on messenger RNA vaccines against Covid-19, nonagenarians pioneering B and T lymphocites, experts in cell adhesion, new avenues for rheumatology treatments , or champions of epigenetics or resistance to antibiotics.

The Swedish Academy of Sciences jealously watches over secrecy and none of the hundreds of nominations running each year are ever confirmed.

Last year, already in the midst of a pandemic, the 2020 prize went to virologists, three discoverers of the virus responsible for the dreaded hepatitis C.

The vintage continues in Stockholm on Tuesday with physics, Wednesday with chemistry, before the long-awaited literature prizes on Thursday and peace on Friday, the only award given in Oslo. The most recent savings prize closes the season next Monday.

– 224 laureates including 12 women –

With this 112th Nobel Prize for medicine, they are now 224 to have been awarded the “physiology or medicine” prize since its creation, including only 12 women.

If the Nobel 2021 are well announced as planned this week, the coronavirus led for the second consecutive year to the cancellation of the arrival of the laureates for the presentation of the prizes on December 10 in Stockholm, unheard of in peacetime since 1924.

As last year, the prizes will be awarded in the countries of residence, although there is little hope for the price of peace in Oslo.

For the latter, the freedom of the press (Reporters Without Borders, Committee for the Protection of Journalists …), the Belarusian opposition and its leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa or the climate, with the Swedish Greta Thunberg, 18, and his movement of Fridays for Future, are mentioned to succeed the World Food Program.

For literature Thursday, dozens of “usual suspects” or more recent hypotheses are considered nobelizable.

Will the Swedish Academy, which seeks to diversify the profile of its laureates, choose a non-Westerner? The Chinese Mo Yan in 2012 is the last non-American or non-European to win the title.

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