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.
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 bio-molecules”, the Nobel chemistry committee said.
“Researchers can now freeze bio-molecules 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,” 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 visualise the virus,” the committee said.
The prize comes with nine million Swedish kronor (around $1.1 million).
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 4, 2017