American scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian on Monday won the Nobel Prize 2021 for medicine. They have been given the award for their discovery of receptors that allow humans to feel temperature and touch, according to an official press release.

Their groundbreaking discoveries “have allowed us to understand how heat, cold and mechanical force can initiate the nerve impulses that allow us to perceive and adapt to the world around us,” the award-giving body said.

The discoveries made by Julius and Patapoutian have helped in developing treatments for a wide range of diseases, including chronic pain, the release said.

Thomas Perlmann, secretary-general of the Nobel Committee, announced the names of the winners.Patapoutian and Julien will receive a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (about Rs 8.5 crore), AP reported.

Patapoutian used pressure-sensitive cells to discover a new category of sensors that respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs.

“This really unlocks one of the secrets of nature,” AP quoted Perlmann as saying. “It’s actually something that is crucial for our survival, so it’s a very important and profound discovery.”

Meanwhile, Julius utilised capsaicin, a pungent compound from chilli peppers that induces a burning sensation, to identify a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to heat.

This was the first Nobel Prize to be awarded this year. The other awards are given in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics. Last year, the Nobel Prize medicine was awarded jointly to American scientists Harvey J Alter and Charles Rice along with Michael Houghton from the United Kingdom for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus.