Lecture on Nobel Prize in Chemistry -Prof. Rajat Sandhir

The Nobel committee recently announced that the Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the year 2021 is to be jointly awarded to David Julius of University of California, San Francisco, and Ardem Patapoutian of Scripps Research, La Jolla, California, for their work deciphering how our body’s cells sense temperature and touch. Their work, carried out independently, has helped show how humans convert the physical impact from heat or touch into nerve impulses that allow us to perceive and adapt to the world around us. This knowledge is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of disease conditions, including chronic pain. The Society for Promotion of Science & Technology in India (SPSTI) with support from Department of Science and Technology, Chandigarh Administration and in association with Chandigarh Chapters of National Academy of Sciences India, Indian National Science Academy & Indian National Young Academy of Sciences and Punjab Engineering College (PEC), Chandigarh organized a webinar on the topic on Saturday. It was the first in the series for 2021 and will be concluded on 9th Dec. The days before the prizes are ceremoniously awarded in Stockholm. The lecture was delivered by Prof. Rajat Sandhir, Department of Biochemistry, Panjab University, Chandigarh. Prof. (Dr.) Amod Gupta, a renowned ophthalmologist and Former Dean, Medical Faculty, PGIMER Chandigarh wasthe Guest of Honour. Prof. Amod Gupta pointed out that it is curiosity, creativity and inquisitiveness in a person that takes the scientist in a person out for this world. Also present on the occasion were Prof. Arun K. Grover, former Vice Chancellor of Panjab University & Vice President of SPSTI, Prof. Keya Dharamvir, General Secretary, Prof. K.K. Bhasin, Secretary of NASI Chandigarh, Dr. Nishima Wangoo and Dr. Neha Sardana, INYAS. Prof. Sandhir explained, through beautiful illustrations, the concept of nociceptors which are specialized sensory neurons that alert us to potentially damaging stimuli at the skin by detecting extremes in temperature and pressure and injury-related chemicals, and transducing these stimuli into long-ranging electrical signals that are relayed to higher brain centers. Nociceptors are characterized, in part, by their sensitivity to capsaicin, a natural product of capsicum peppers that is the active ingredient of many hot and spicy foods. In mammals, exposure of nociceptor terminals to capsaicin leads initially to excitation of the neuron and consequent perception of pain and local release of inflammatory mediators. With prolonged exposure, nociceptor terminals become insensitive to capsaicin, as well as to other noxious stimuli-nociceptor. This desensitization underlies the seemingly paradoxical use of capsaicin as an analgesic agent in the treatment of painful disorders ranging from viral and diabetic neuropathies to rheumatoid arthritis. The lecture was followed by a lively discussion in which many academic luminaries, including those from Panjab University and PGI participated. The lecture was attended by 74 on Zoom and many others through live streams of the Society. The concluding remarks were made by Shri Dharam Vir, IAS (Retd.) and former Chief Secretary of Haryana and President of SPSTI.

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