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Trio takes Nobel Chemistry Prize for new method to study molecules

Nobel Chemistry Prize

STOCKHOLM: 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.

Researchers based in US, UK and Switzerland win prize for developments in electron microscopy. Jacques Dubochet of the University of Lausanne, Joachim Frank at New York’s Columbia University and Richard Henderson of MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, Britain will share the nine million Swedish kronor (around $1.1 million or 943,100 euros) prize.

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 biomolecules”, the Nobel chemistry committee said.

“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,” 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.

 

READ MORE: Three US scientists win Nobel Physics Prize for gravitational waves

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