The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded jointly on Monday, local time to two American scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian.
They were awarded the prize for their work on how people sense heat, cold, touch and their own bodily movements.
Physiologist Dr. Julius used an ingredient of hot chili pepper to identify a protein on nerve cells that responds to hot temperatures.
The capsaicin from chili pepper activated a channel on the surface of cells known as TRPV1, which was also identified as the nerve sensor that allows the skin to respond to heat.
Molecular biologist Dr. Patapoutian poked individual cells with a tiny pipette, and found which receptor responds to pressure.
"Pain and pressure" were among the last sensations that scientists have been trying to explain on a molecular level.
The findings have gathered interest from pharmaceutical companies looking to make non-opioid painkillers.
By blocking the channel identified, they could address chronic pain.
Some had expected the research into mRNA vaccines to get the prize, but there were several reasons why it didn't get the award.
"Uncertainty remains over the mRNA vaccine. Pfizer received full FDA approval, but Moderna only received emergency authorization. It will take more time until it stands as a generalized science."
Another expert explained that the nominees are selected one year in advance, so this year's winner was nominated last September before mRNA vaccines were in the global spotlight.
Jang Tae-hyun, Arirang News.