Stockholm, Oct 4: Three scientists have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their development of an effective method for generating 3D images of the molecules of life.
Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson won the prize “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determition of biomolecules in solution”, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said while announcing the award here on Wednesday.
“This method has moved biochemistry into a new era,” the Academy said.
The application of cryo-electron microscopy is now widespread. For example, when researchers began to suspect that the Zika virus was causing the epidemic of brain-damaged newborns in Brazil, they turned to cryo-electron microscopy to visualise the virus.
Over a few months, 3D images of the virus at atomic resolution were generated and researchers could start searching for potential targets for pharmaceuticals.
Dubochet, affiliated with the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, Frank with Columbia University in New York and Henderson with MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Britain, have made ground-breaking discoveries that have ebled the development of cryo-electron microscopy.
Over the last few years, numerous astonishing structures of life’s molecular machinery have filled scientific literature.
Salmonella’s injection needle for attacking cells; proteins that confer resistance to chemotherapy and antibiotics; molecular complexes that govern circadian rhythms; light-capturing reaction complexes for photosynthesis and a pressure sensor of the type that allows us to hear are just a few examples of the hundreds of biomolecules that have now been imaged using cryo-electron microscopy. (IANS)