Two US-based scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering receptors for temperature and touch.
David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian were awarded the prize in the field of physiology or medicine.
Their 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 Nobel Prize body said.
“This knowledge is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of disease conditions, including chronic pain.”
Professor Julius, 65, used capsaicin, the active component in chilli peppers, to identify the nerve sensors that allow the skin to respond to heat, according to Patrik Ernfors of the Nobel Committee.
Professor Patapoutian found separate pressure-sensitive sensors in cells that respond to mechanical stimulation, he added.
The winners were announced on Monday by Thomas Perlmann, secretary-general of the Nobel Committee, who said: “This really unlocks one of the secrets of nature.
“It’s actually something that is crucial for our survival, so it’s a very important and profound discovery.”
The Nobel award comes with a gold medal and a prize of more than $1m.
The other prizes for outstanding work in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics will be awarded later this week.