Scientists identified receptors in the skin as part of their work in the field of somatosensation

Two scientists won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for their discoveries into how the human body perceives temperature and touch, revelations that could lead to new ways of treating pain or even heart disease, the Associated Press reports.

Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian separately identified receptors in the skin as part of their work in the field of somatosensation, which explores the ability of specialized organs such as eyes, ears and skin to see, hear and feel.

Julius used capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers, to help pinpoint the nerve sensors that respond to heat, while Patapoutian found pressure-sensitive sensors in cells that respond to mechanical stimulation, the committee said.

“This really unlocks one of the secrets of nature,” said Thomas Perlmann, secretary-general of the Nobel Committee, in announcing the winners. “It’s actually something that is crucial for our survival, so it’s a very important and profound discovery.”

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