Nobel prize awarded for imaging molecules

The 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to three scientists for improving images made of biological molecules.

Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson will share the nine million kronor (£831,000) prize.

They were named at a press conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

They developed a technique called cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), which simplifies the process for looking at the machinery of life.

The process makes it possible for life's molecular building blocks to be captured mid-movement and allowed scientists to visualise processes that had never before been seen.

Prof Dubochet was born in Switzerland, Joachim Frank is German and Richard Henderson is from Edinburgh, UK.

Speaking to journalists over a telephone line, Prof Frank said the practical uses for the technique were "immense".

And the Nobel committee said the work had "moved biochemistry into a new era".

Committee chair Sara Snogerup Linse explained: "Soon, there are no more secrets, now, we can see the intricate details of the biomolecules in every corner of our cells and every drop of our body fluids.

"We can understand how they are built and how they act and how they work together in large communities. We are facing a revolution in biochemistry."

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.

 

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