How do we feel the touch of a feather? How can we play the piano without watching our hands? How do we know when our stomachs are full?

Ardem Patapoutian, PhD, and his laboratory at the Dorris Neuroscience Center at Scripps Research perform pioneering research into mechanosensation: the conversion of mechanical forces into biological signals relevant to normal physiology and disease. For his success in identifying receptors critical to touch, Patapoutian was awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Since his initial discovery, Patapoutian has learned that these receptors are found throughout the body, including within many of our internal organs. In addition to sensing touch, they are proving to be vitally important to heart rate, breathing and the regulation of blood pressure.

By unraveling the mysteries of mechanosensation, Patapoutian is helping scientists design better medications for pain and more effective therapies for hypertension, blood disorders and related conditions.