Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded for 3D Images of Life's Molecules

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded for 3D Images of Life's Molecules

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded for 3D Images of Life's Molecules

The winners of the 2017 Prize employed three different approaches that together overcame these challenges, taking, as the Nobel Committee said, "biochemistry into a new era, making it easier than ever before to capture images of biomolecules".

Joachim Frank, who shares this year's Nobel Chemistry Prize with two other researchers for developing a method to generate three-dimensional images of the molecules of life, says the potential use of the method is "immense".

The process makes it possible for life's molecular building blocks to be captured mid-movement and allowed scientists to visualise processes that had never before been seen.

The third recipient, Richard Henderson, was born in Scotland in 1945 and works at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded Tuesday to three U.S. astrophysicists for their contributions to the first detections of gravitational waves.

Four years earlier, the 1982 Chemistry Nobel had gone to Aaron Klug "for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes".

Later, Edinburgh-born Richard Henderson succeeded in presenting the structure of a bacterial molecule at atomic resolution - moving the technique on still further.

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This method allows bio-molecules to be kept frozen in their natural state without the need for dyes or fixatives. The problem with freezing biological samples is that ice crystals diffract the electron beam, blurring the image.

Nine out of nine Nobel Prizes in 2017 have been won by male scientists.

Depiction of Zika virus cryo-EM structureWIKIMEDIA, STARLESSLast year, Henderson won the Royal Society's Copley Medal, the world's oldest scientific prize, for his work on imaging techniques. It was shown that the water evaporates in the vacuum present in the electron microscope.

Cryo-electron microscopy has enabled scientists to fill in previously blank spaces in research, generating images of everything from proteins that cause antibiotic resistance, to the surface of the Zika virus.

Dubochet, an honorary professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, worked on making biomolecules stable enough to resist electron microscopy.

The trio was presented with the prize money of 9 million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million) which will be split into three equals.

The detailed images may pave the way for developing new medicines, vaccines and industrial chemicals, but experts said such payoffs are largely in the future.

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