Scripps Research scientist wins Nobel Prize in physiology
Speaker 1: (00:00)
This year Nobel prize for medicine has been awarded to Scripps research scientists. Our Dem pat [inaudible], pat and poutine, and his partner, David Julius at UC San Francisco won the award for their work in discovering how skin receptors allow people to sense temperature and touch. The Nobel committee says pet a poutine and Julius uncovered the pathways that are fundamental to our ability to feel interpret and interact with our environment pat Poodie and spoke about his work briefly. Soon after he was notified about the Nobel prize
Speaker 2: (00:36)
In science, many times, it's the things that we take for granted that are of high interest and, um, us being in the field of sensing touch and pain. This was kind of the big elephant in the room.
Speaker 1: (00:50)
The Nobel prize for medicine is widely regarded as the highest prize in science and scripts is planning a celebration for the latest of its researchers to be awarded a Nobel journey may is San Diego union Tribune, biotech reporter Jonathan Wilson, and Jonathan. Welcome.
Speaker 3: (01:08)
Thanks for having me
Speaker 1: (01:09)
Now. Papuans research apparently discovered the molecular basis of how we can feel temperature and force through touch. Can you explain that a bit more?
Speaker 3: (01:21)
Sure. So our Adams group, which has been a scripts for the past 20 years was able to basically answer a question that hasn't been answered this whole time, which is exactly how do we take things like a handshake or a warm cup of coffee or a hug, and turn that into some sort of biological electrical signal that can actually reach the brain and allow us to sense our environment. So he had done some experiments and researchers in his lab had done some experiments, uh, essentially on a line of cells growing in the lab that would produce little electrical signals in response to little pokes and prods. And so what they started doing was they started disabling genes, one by one by the other, uh, to find which genes were essential for allowing those electrical signals to happen. So they stumbled upon a couple of key genes that code for, or have the instructions to build, uh, two pretty important proteins as part of that process.
Speaker 3: (02:24)
And when we talked about touch, we're actually talking about all different forms of touch from our sense of pressure, to our sense of pain, you know, your, your sense that your stomach is full after a meal that your lungs are full when you've taken in a breath of air. So it's a pretty wide ranging question in biology and the applications for it in terms of, you know, chronic pain in terms of, you know, cells in your heart to have to feel blood pressure. You know, these are all areas where we may be able to unlock some new therapeutics just by understanding the molecules to control this aspect of our lives. We're pat of
Speaker 1: (02:59)
Judean and Julius expected to win this year's Nobel in medicine, or is this a surprise?
Speaker 3: (03:05)
So they were both definitely in the running. And I can say that because the previous year in 2020, they won another really prestigious prize in science, the Kavli prize, which is announced every two years. And they got that prize for the exact same discovery. That's the prize where the winners are usually acknowledged in person in Oslo, Norway. So they had previously won a pretty significant honor for the same exact discovery. So they were definitely, you know, I think on the docket and the running for the Nobel prize as well,
Speaker 1: (03:37)
Tell the news conference this morning about the award to one of its researchers. What did they have to say?
Speaker 3: (03:42)
So it was interesting Artem introduced himself as a, you know, Lebanese immigrant as someone who grew up in Beirut at a time when there was a civil war, talked about himself being essentially a refugee and, uh, coming here and experiencing the American dream, uh, discovering science, you know, having the sort of financial aid and support of going public universities. He went to UCLA initially, and then from there, went on to do a PhD and get additional training. So he really framed it as an American story. Uh, you know, he was very incredibly grateful that to spend his life as a scientist and to get to pursue curiosity and these fundamental questions of how the human body works, uh, and really just a lot of genuine joy was one funny moment that, uh, he mentioned earlier this morning was that he actually, uh, was, would have missed the phone call from, uh, Stockholm, uh, you know, telling him that he had won the Nobel prize. It was only because his 94 year old father, uh, evidently had also been getting phone calls, uh, that he was able to get through to Artem, uh, pretty early in the morning. Otherwise he was, he was sound asleep
Speaker 1: (04:54)
In normal times and pet a poutine would be preparing to travel to Stockholm to accept the Nobel prize, but that's not the case this year, is it
Speaker 3: (05:03)
Right? So this is the second year in a row that, that has been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. So 2020 as well as 21, that moment of celebration has been turned into a sort of virtual ceremony. And the same was true last year when he won the Catholic prize. So, you know, at this rate, we expect that maybe 20, 22 would be the next time that there would be an in-person ceremony, although that really has yet to be confirmed for sure that at this point in the pandemic,
Speaker 1: (05:33)
Isn't there a large cash award that accompanies this prize.
Speaker 3: (05:37)
It's about $1 million, a little bit more 1.1, 4 million. So our team will be sharing that with David Julius, his colleague, who was also at, at the university of California, San Francisco. So our team's team is essentially famous for identifying these genes behind how we sense touch and pressure. And David Julius, this group identified a similar protein that controls our sense of heat, and they they're able to do that by looking at how cells respond to capsaicin. That's the same chemical and chilies that probably makes you want to grab a glass of cold milk or water when you've had something too spicy, but it also controls responses to high temperatures and low oxygen conditions, as well as inflammation all trigger that same receptor in our bodies
Speaker 1: (06:27)
[inaudible] is the latest script's researcher to win a Nobel who were the other
Speaker 3: (06:34)
Bruce Butler, one Nobel prize for identifying a set of receptors that are really important in immune responses. About 20 years ago, very Sharpless won the Nobel prize in chemistry for his work on catalysts. Uh, there also a number of other Nobel prize recipients, sort of in San Diego, life sciences, um, across the other research institutes, you know, Roger Chen comes to mind, uh, he identified the set of molecules that cause certain jellyfish to glow in the dark. And that's actually the genes behind those molecules have become a really important, a really basic tool across all aspects of, uh, biology research. Anytime researchers want to be able to see a certain structure under the microscope, uh, they, they use what's called a fluorescent protein. So, uh, definitely yet another example of a pretty productive life science industry that we have a community that we have here in San Diego.
Speaker 1: (07:34)
And what kind of benefit does script's research get from having a staff scientist win a Nobel?
Speaker 3: (07:40)
Well, it's definitely something that adds to script's researchers, rip reputation as one of the top non-profit research organizations in the country. It's something that you know, is going to attract probably even more talent to that Institute in the future. Uh, you know, as they're bringing in graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, I think it's safe to say there are a lot of people who would love to work at a place that has a number of Nobel prize winners. Not a lot of people who would love to work in those labs. So it it's something that ultimately cements their status. As you know, one of the more high powered, uh, scientific organizations, uh, that that's out there today.
Speaker 1: (08:23)
I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, biotech reporter, Jonathan Wilson, Jonathan. Thank you.
Speaker 3: (08:29)
That's been fun. Thank you.
A scientist at Scripps Research in La Jolla Monday jointly received the Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine.
Ardem Patapoutian, 53, of Scripps Research in La Jolla was selected as a recipient of the Nobel Prize for his use of "pressure-sensitive cells" to discover a class of sensors that "respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs," according to the Nobel Committee.
The Nobel Committee said that these findings include two ion channels that are necessary to human senses and have been proven to regulate other physiological processes — blood pressure, bladder control, etc.
"The breakthrough by Patapoutian led to a series of papers from his and other groups, demonstrating that the Piezo2 ion channel is essential for the sense of touch," the Nobel committee wrote in a press release around 3 a.m.
"Moreover, Piezo2 was shown to play a key role in the critically important sensing of body position and motion, known as proprioception."
Patapoutian is a professor of neuroscience at Scripps Research, as well as an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
David Julius, 66, was awarded for his findings using capsaicin — a compound found in chili peppers — to identify a sensor in nerve-endings that respond to heat. Julius has been a professor at the University of California, San Francisco since 1989.
"Dr. Patapoutian, together with Dr. Julius, unlocked one of the mysteries of life, how do we sense temperature and pressure," said Peter Schultz, President and CEO of Scripps Research. "The Nobel Prize is wonderful recognition of these discoveries. I have followed Dr. Patapoutian's career closely since he first came to Scripps Research and can say that he is an extraordinary scientist, mentor, and colleague and a wonderful person."