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Three share £830000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for electron microscope breakthrough

05 October 2017

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was on Wednesday awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson "for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution".

The cooling technique was first demonstrated by Dubochet, while Frank developed image processing techniques that allowed complex protein molecules to be viewed in 3D; Henderson moved the technique on by imaging a bacteria molecule at atomic resolution. The technique allows scientists to freeze biomolecules in action and "visualise processes they have never previously seen", according to the Nobel statement.

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

The chemistry prize was the third of this year's Nobel Prize awards to be announced.

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Later, Edinburgh-born Richard Henderson succeeded in presenting the structure of a bacterial molecule at atomic resolution - moving the technique on still further. If a molecule involved in cancer, for instance, by seeing its shape drug developers can glean clues about the kind of molecule they need to create to disrupt the molecule.

Additionally, the requirement of vacuum for electron microscopy meant the deterioration of biomolecules with the evaporation of surrounding water. In the past, electron microscopes were also assumed to be useful only in imaging dead material due to electron beams destroying biological matter.

From 1901 to 2016 was awarded to 108 Nobel prize in chemistry.

In the Zika virus, for example, scientists identified unique parts of the pathogen's structure using cryo-electron microscopy, identifying a potential target for a vaccine.

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His breakthrough was further developed by German-born scientist Frank, a US citizen, while Dubochet of Switzerland used rapidly frozen water to preserve the natural shape of the biomolecules.

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

"I think it's something for the future", Campbell said. The three winners of the $1.1 million (9 million kronor) prize adapted another technique, electron microscopy, which uses a beam of electrons rather than ordinary light to inspect samples.

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Three share £830000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for electron microscope breakthrough