The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2021
Born: 1967, Beirut, Lebanon
Affiliation at the time of the award: Scripps Research, La Jolla, CA, USA; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USA
Prize motivation: “for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch”
Prize share: 1/2
Our ability to sense heat, cold and touch is essential for survival and underpins our interaction with the world around us. In the early 2000s, Ardem Patapoutian investigated how pressure is translated into nerve impulses. He used cells that gave off a measurable electric signal when they were poked and assumed that the cause was a receptor, an ion channel, on the cell membrane. After having identified 72 candidate genes encoding possible receptors these were silenced one at a time. The pressure-sensitive ion channel was then found.
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