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Heap of red hot chili peppers

Nobel Prize Medicine Win Solves a Mystery in Hot, Cold Sensing

Researchers discovered the exact path by which chili peppers feel “hot” and mints feel “cold” when the signals reach our brains.

The 2021 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to David Julius of the University of California, San Francisco, and Ardem Patapoutian of Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, for “for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.” It’s been a longstanding mystery why chili peppers feel hot to the taste: In order to truly appreciate Dr. Julius’ discovery, a bit of context may be in order. Unless you build up tolerance, eating spicy foods is painful. Peppers and wasabi give off a strange sensation that your mouth is on fire, and for the longest time researchers simply couldn’t figure out why this was the case. Failing to pinpoint any immediate benefits of this response, they speculated it…