They were cited for their discovery of receptors for temperature and touch. The winners were announced Monday by Thomas Perlmann, secretary-general of the Nobel Committee.
Patrik Ernfors of the Nobel Committee said Julius used capsaicin, the active component in chile peppers, to identify the nerve sensors that allow the skin to respond to heat.
Patapoutian found separate pressure-sensitive sensors in cells that respond to mechanical stimulation, he said.
“This really unlocks one of the secrets of nature,” said Perlmann. “It’s actually something that is crucial for our survival, so it’s a very important and profound discovery.”
Last year’s prize went to three scientists who discovered the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus, a breakthrough that led to cures for the deadly disease and tests to keep the scourge from spreading though blood banks.
The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (over $ 1.14 million). The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.
The Nobel Prize is the first to be awarded this year. The other prizes are for outstanding work in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics.
The Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine is awarded for discovery of major importance in life science or medicine. Discoveries that have changed the scientific paradigm and are of great benefit for humankind are awarded the prize. Life time achievements or scientific leadership cannot be considered for the prize.
Karolinska Institutet (now The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet) selects the winner.
Candidates eligible for the medicine prize are nominated by nominators who have received an invitation from the Nobel Committee to submit names for consideration. No one can nominate herself or himself.
Eligible nominations are then considered by the prize awarders, who make the final decision as to who will receive a Nobel Prize.