Nobel Prize In Chemistry 2017 Awarded For Imaging The Molecules Of Life

Thursday, 05 Oct, 2017

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to Jacques Dubochet from Switzerland, Joachim Frank from the USA and Richard Henderson from Britain, during an announcement at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden, Wednesday.

During the same decade, Frank, of Columbia University in NY, and his colleagues developed image-processing software to make sense of the fuzzy images that are produced when an electron microscope is aimed at a protein, and to convert these two-dimensional blurs into 3D molecular structures. Pictures were taken from many different angles of the same membrane under the electron microscope to produce a rough 3D model of bacteriorhodopsin's structure.

The researchers' combined efforts led to major advances in how scientists use electron microscopes today-the microscopes that can image down to the atomic level. The use of both techniques was, however, subject to limitations imposed by the nature of biomolecules. The Noble Prize rewards the scientists for the influential advancements in studying the microscopic bits of material which are the elementary units of life.

The award has gone to Richard Henderson, Jacques Dubochet and Joachim Frank for developing cryo-electron microscopy, which cools down substances to liquid nitrogen temperatures.

"Jacques Dubochet added water to electron microscopy".

The other victor Joachim Frank made the technology applicable in general conditions.

The Cryo-EM method makes it possible to portray biomolecules in a 3D form after freezing them very fast.

Dubochet, 75, is a Swiss biophysicist who now conducts his research at University of Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Indeed, cryo-electron microscopy is already delivering results, such as the recent discovery of the structure of tau protein filaments in Alzheimer's disease.

Over the last few years, researchers have published atomic structures of numerous complicated protein complexes, such as this one that governs circadian rhythm (left), a pressure sensor pressure in the ear used for hearing (middle) and the Zika virus (right).

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded Tuesday to three U.S. astrophysicists for their contributions to the first detections of gravitational waves. Between 1975 and 1986 he developed an image processing method in which the electron microscope's fuzzy twodimensional images are analysed and merged to reveal a sharp three-dimensional structure. Such an image is often the first thing to "open our eyes, and so our minds, to a scientific breakthrough".

The 2017 prize, worth 9 million kronor ($1.1 million), is being announced Wednesday by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.