David Julius Wins Nobel Prize for Work on Pain Sensation
David Julius, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Morris Herzstein Chair in Molecular Biology and Medicine at UC San Francisco, has won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Julius received the prize jointly with Ardem Patapoutian, PhD, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Scripps Research and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, “for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch,” according to the Nobel committee in Stockholm, Sweden.
A biochemist and molecular biologist, Julius’s work has focused on how our bodies sense heat, cold and chemical irritants, leading to new insights about the fundamental nature of pain and new targets for pain therapy.
To understand how signals responsible for temperature and pain sensation are transmitted by neural circuits to the brain, Julius and his UCSF laboratory have taken advantage of a variety of noxious substances produced by animals and plants — including toxins from tarantulas and coral snakes; capsaicin, the molecule that produces the “heat” in chili peppers; and the chemicals underlying the pungency of horseradish and wasabi.