Two U.S. scientists won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Monday for their discoveries on how temperature and touch impact the nervous system.

Mice were key to the breakthroughs of the laureates, University of California at San Francisco professor David Julius and Scripps Research molecular biologist Ardem Patapoutian. Their work could lead to improved ways to treat pain.

“Their discoveries have unlocked one of the secrets of nature by explaining the molecular basis for sensing heat, cold and mechanical force, which is fundamental for our ability to feel, interpret and interact with our internal and external environment,” according to the Nobel Assembly at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.

Julius identified a receptor that responds to heat with the help of an ingredient in chili peppers, and Patapoutian discovered sensors that respond to touch and pressure.

“The groundbreaking discoveries of the TRPV1, TRPM8 and Piezo channels by this year’s Nobel Prize laureates 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 TRP channels are central for our ability to perceive temperature,” a Nobel Assembly press release said. “The Piezo2 channel endows us with the sense of touch and the ability to feel the position and movement of our body parts.”

The scientists studied mice to bridge gaps in knowledge about senses and the environment. These scientific advances are one step closer to new treatments and medications for conditions including chronic pain and heart disease. (READ: Animal Models in COVID-19 Vaccine Development Shouldn’t Go Unnoticed)

Congratulations, Julius and Patapoutian. FBR applauds your achievements for the common good.

Read more about the role of mice for these Nobel-winning discoveries: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2021/advanced-information/. Find more about past Nobel winners’ research with animals in FBR’s catalogue: https://fbresearch.org/medical-advances/nobel-prizes/.

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