Three scientists have shared 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Wednesday.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017 was awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”.
Dubochet, born 1942 in Aigle, Switzerland, is Honorary Professor of Biophysics at University of Lausanne, Switzerland; Frank, born 1940 in Siegen, Germany, is Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, USA; Richard Henderson, born 1945 in Edinburgh, Scotland, is Programme Leader at MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, Britain.
In 1990, Henderson succeeded in using an electron microscope to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at atomic resolution. This breakthrough proved the technology’s potential.
Frank made the technology generally applicable. Between 1975 and 1986 he developed an image processing method in which the electron microscope’s fuzzy two-dimensional images are analysed and merged to reveal a sharp three-dimensional structure.
Dubochet added water to electron microscopy. In the early 1980s, he succeeded in vitrifying water — he cooled water so rapidly that it solidified in its liquid form around a biological sample, allowing the biomolecules to retain their natural shape even in a vacuum.
Researchers can now freeze biomolecules mid-movement and visualise processes they have never previously seen, which is decisive for both the basic understanding of life’s chemistry and for the development of pharmaceuticals, according to a statement released by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
“The development of cryo-electron microscopy, which both simplifies and improves the imaging of biomolecules, has moved biochemistry into a new era,” added the statement.—Xinhua