American scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian won the 2021 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch, the award-giving body said on Monday.
Their groundbreaking discoveries "have allowed us to understand how heat, cold and mechanical force can initiate the nerve impulses that allow us to perceive and adapt to the world around us," it said.
"This knowledge is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of disease conditions, including chronic pain."
The more than century-old prize is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.15 million).
The prizes, for achievements in science, literature and peace, were created and funded in the will of Swedish dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel. They have been awarded since 1901, with the economics prize first handed out in 1969.
The Nobel Prize for Medicine often lives in the shadow of the Nobels for literature and peace, and their sometimes more widely known laureates. But medicine has been thrust into the spotlight by the COVID-19 pandemic, and some scientists had suggested those who developed coronavirus vaccines could be rewarded this year or in coming years.
The pandemic continues to haunt the Nobel ceremonies, which are usually full of old-world pomp and glamour. The banquet in Stockholm has been postponed for a second successive year amid lingering worries about the virus and international travel.
Last year's prize went to Americans Harvey Alter and Charles Rice and Briton Michael Houghton for work in identifying the Hepatitis C virus, which causes cirrhosis and liver cancer.