2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded for Cryo-Electron Microscopy
Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for research that may soon lead to “detailed images of life’s complex machineries in atomic resolution.”
The three men developed what the Nobel committee described as cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution.
What is Cryo-Electron Microscopy?
Cryoelectron microscopy is a method for imaging frozen-hydrated specimens at cryogenic temperatures by electron microscopy. Specimens remain in their native state without the need for dyes or fixatives, allowing the study of fine cellular structures, viruses and protein complexes at molecular resolution.
Electron microscopes were long believed to only be suitable for imaging dead matter, because the powerful electron beam destroys biological material. But in 1990, Richard 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.
Joachim Frank made the technology generally applicable. Between 1975 and 1986 he developed an image processing method in which the electron microscope’s fuzzy twodimensional images are analysed and merged to reveal a sharp three-dimensional structure.
Jacques Dubochet added water to electron microscopy. Liquid water evaporates in the electron microscope’s vacuum, which makes the biomolecules collapse. In the early 1980s, Dubochet 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.
About The Awardee’s
Born: 1942, Aigle, Switzerland
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
He is a former employee of EMBL Heidelberg and a professor at the University of Lausanne.During his career, he developed technologies in cryo-electron microscopy, cryo-electron tomography and cryo-electron microscopy of vitreous sections. These technologies are used to image individual biological structures such as protein complexes or virus particles.
Born: 1940, Siegen, Germany
Affiliation at the time of the award: Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
He is regarded as the founder of single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), also made significant contributions to structure and function of the ribosome from bacteria and eukaryotes.
Born: 1945, Edinburgh, Scotland
Affiliation at the time of the award: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom
He is a Scottish molecular biologist and biophysicist and pioneer in the field of electron microscopy of biological molecules.
Who won the 2016 Chemistry Nobel?
Jean-Pierre Sauvage, J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa were recognized for their development of nanomachines, made of moving molecules, may eventually be used to create new materials, sensors and energy storage systems.