3 researchers win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Lena Tucker
October 5, 2017

Scientists Jacques Dubochet from Switzerland, Joachim Frank from the United States and Richard Henderson from Britain won the Nobel Chemistry Prize for the development of cryo-electron microscopy, a method of simplifying and improving the imaging of biomolecules.

Henderson's portion of the prize was awarded for his 1990 breakthrough in imaging with an electron microscope, using the device to produce a 3-dimensional image of a protein at atomic resolution.

Through this method, researchers can now "stop" biomolecules in motion and "to visualize the process, which they've never seen before". Joachim Frank, a professor at Colombia University in NY, expanded on electron microscopy, making it more flexible and more widely applicable.

The prize comes with an award of 9 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million), shared when there are multiple recipients.

Last year's prize went to three European chemists for developing "nano-machines", an advance that paved the way for the world's first smart materials.

Henderson took a major step forward when he placed a bacterial cell membrane containing millions of molecules called bacteriorhodopsin into an electron microscope. The method does so in a way that the biomolecules are preserved in their natural shape.

Scientists who produced molecular machines have been awarded the Nobel Prizes for Chemistry/ These machines are molecules with controllable motions and the scientists who outlined the ways to fix a damaged DNA, directing to enhanced cancer treatments.

Ordinary electron microscopy makes biomolecules, which contain water, collapse.

The scientists were able to optimize the microscope to provide three-dimensional structures of biomolecules, from the surface of the Zika virus to proteins that cause antibiotic resistance.

Dubochet, born in 1942, is an honorary professor of biophysics at Lausanne University and graduated from Basel and Geneva Universities.

Cryo-electron microscopy, the academy explained is "a cool method for imaging the molecules of life".

Richard Henderson (UK) have all won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

"To give one example, past year the 3D structure of the enzyme producing the amyloid (protein) of Alzheimer's disease was published using this technology", Hardy said.

Speaking of his childhood fear of darkness and scientific curiosity, Dubochet said in an earlier interview: "It was important for me to face my fears and understand the frightening things".

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