Before the invention of cryo-electron microscopy, which won biochemists Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday, scientists had to stain or fix cells before they looked at them under an electron microscope. That process often caused fragile biological structures to fall apart, and if they didn't, the radiation from the electron microscope or the vacuum the scientists put the cells into often turned the once-living specimens into mush. Cryo-electron therapy allows scientists to look at the cells as if they were in their natural liquid environment--just like they are in our bodies. "In order to really understand how these proteins work and function, looking at their state in a liquid environment is critical," says Allison Campbell, president of the American Chemical Society. In 1975, Joachim Frank of the New York State Department of Health theorized a process in which the then-limited information that electron microscopes presented could be combined into a high resolution, 3-D image.
The discovery of a way to see complex biological molecules in atomic resolution has won this year's Nobel prize in Chemistry. 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. Their techniques have recently let us see in unprecedented detail the surface of the Zika virus, bacterial proteins that cause antibiotic resistance, and tumour cell proteins that let cancers become resistant to chemotherapy. Previous electron microscopes were less useful, partly because they need the sample to be placed in a vacuum. This causes surrounding water to evaporate, and the molecules being studied collapse and lose their normal structure.
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.
Three researchers who developed a way to see the basic molecules of life in three dimensions won the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Wednesday. Jacques Dubochet of Switzerland's University of Lausanne, Joachim Frank of Columbia University in New York City, and Richard Henderson of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in England were honored "for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution," said Göran Hansson, Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, in announcing the prize in Stockholm. SEE ALSO: Google Doodle honours Australia's only Nobel Prize winner in chemistry Basically, cryo-EM lets biologists see what they're studying, from the surface of the Zika virus to human enzymes involved in disease. If a molecule involved in cancer, for instance, by seeing its shape drug developers can glean clues about the kind of molecule they need to create to disrupt the molecule. The prize is therefore another example of the chemistry Nobel honoring research that is squarely within biology.
Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson have won the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing a way to image our cells and biomolecules at cold temperatures. Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson have won the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing a way to image biomolecules at cold temperatures. Cryo-electron microscopy -- or cool microscopy -- transformed biology and medicine because it can take snapshots of our body's materials, like proteins, which are constantly moving at rapid speeds. The technique allowed scientists to figure out how drugs interact with components of our cells and exposed the most intimate corners of our cells on an atomic level. Dubochet, 75, is a Swiss biophysicist who currently conducts his research at University of Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland.