Cool way to peer into molecules' inner workings wins chemistry Nobel Prize

Nobel chemistry prize awarded for molecular machines which repair damaged DNA

Richard Henderson, 72, a programme leader at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge, is one of the fathers of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), a technique for making freeze-frame images that is described as the biggest advance in its field for a century. This breakthrough is decisive for both the basic understanding of life's chemistry and for the development of pharmaceuticals.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has produced an easy-to-read history about the role each of the three winners played in the development of cryo-electron microscopy; there is also an 18-page scientific summary of the research.

Three scientists shared 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Wednesday.

The recent spike in Zika cases hinted at that new era. This was previously thought to be impossible, as the electron beam destroys the biological material.

"And as a biologist, I can say that the pictures are lovely", he said.

With the new method, biomolecules, including bacteria and viruses (like the Zika virus), can be frozen mid-movement to observe how they act and interact. The achievement was to preserve the structure of liquid water at a temperature low enough so that it would not evaporate.

We're expecting the name (s) to be announced at 10.45am United Kingdom time, from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. Though much of this work was done before then, he said joining Columbia was instrumental to meeting colleagues across departments and working with brilliant students who contributed pieces to this "immense puzzle".

It has laid bare never-before-seen details of the machinery inside cells, viruses and proteins, and has shed light on enzymes involved in diseases such as Alzheimer's.

The development of Cryo-electron microscopy changes all of this.

Henderson showed in the early 1970s that a protein called bacteriorhodopsin can be studied under an electron microscope if the molecules are naturally bound within a biological membrane.

Dubochet, Frank and Henderson developed a method that made it possible to see the molecules of life for the first time as three-dimensional structures at atomic resolution.

Biochemistry owes Frank and this year's other two Chemistry laureates, Richard Henderson and Jacques Dubochet, a debt of thanks for this important visualization tool.

The literature prize victor is set to be announced on Thursday and the peace prize is due to be announced on Friday.

The award is worth nine million Swedish kronor (CHF1 million).

On Monday, the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young.

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