Trio takes chemistry Nobel for ‘cool’ method to study molecules

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STOCKHOLM: Scientists Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson were awarded the Nobel Chemistry Prize on Wednesday for cryo-electron microscopy, a simpler and better method for imaging tiny, frozen molecules.

Portraits of the winners of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry are seen on a screen (L-R) Jacques Dubochet from Switzerland, Joachim Frank from the US and Richard Henderson from Britain on Wednesday at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden. AFP PHOTO

Thanks to their team’s new “cool method”, involving electron beams to photograph bits of cells, “researchers can now routinely produce three-dimensional structures of biomolecules,” the Nobel chemistry committee said.

“Researchers can now freeze biomolecules mid-movement and visualize processes they have never previously seen, which is decisive for both the basic understanding of life’s chemistry and for the development of pharmaceuticals,” the committee added.

This method allows bio-molecules to be kept frozen in their natural state without the need for dyes or fixatives.


It is used study the tiniest details of cell structures, viruses and proteins.

“When researchers began to suspect that the Zika virus was causing the epidemic of brain-damaged newborns in Brazil, they turned to cryo-EM (electron microscopy) to visualize the virus,” the committee said.

The prize comes with nine million Swedish kronor (around $1.1 million or 943,100 euros). AFP

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