Published: Thu, October 05, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

Dubochet, Frank, Henderson Awarded 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Dubochet, Frank, Henderson Awarded 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The laureates are: Jacques Dubochet from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland; Joachim Frank from Columbia University, New York, US; and Richard Henderson from the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK.

Members of the Nobel Committee sit in front of a giant screen displaying details of the work area of winners of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on October 4, 2017, at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden.

The scientists developed a way to generate three-dimensional images of molecules, which the academy said has brought biochemistry "into a new era".

Cryo-electron microscopy fundamentally changed biology and biochemistry, allowing scientists to create 3-D reconstructions of the biomolecular processes that support life.

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The Nobel prize in Chemistry was awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank, Michael Henderson on Wednesday.

Cryo-electron microscopy has been used to capture images of Salmonella's "injection needle" for attacking cells, proteins involved in antibiotic resistance and the molecular structures governing circadian rhythm - the subject of this year's medicine and physiology Nobel. Due to their work, electron microscopes are now able to visualise proteins at atomic resolution.

Previous techniques often required the use of dyes or fixatives to help see these molecules.

Nine out of nine Nobel Prizes in 2017 have been won by male scientists. Further advances have brought cryo-EM within reach of resolving single atoms, rivalling x-ray crystallography. This causes surrounding water to evaporate, and the molecules being studied collapse and lose their normal structure. At first the images produced, though useful, were somewhat shapeless - leading cryo-electron microscopy to be dubbed "blobology".

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But in the 1970s Dubochet showed that adding water to electron microscopy in a certain way that prevented that. He used this technique to model the surface of the ribosome, the cell's protein synthesis factory.

Chemistry was the second prize mentioned in Alfred Nobel's 1895 will and was the most important of the sciences for his own work, according to the official website of the Nobel Prize.

The prize comes with nine million Swedish kronor (around United States dollars 1.1 million or 943,100 euros).

"I am very happy-I think this [prize] is something that he really deserves".

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