Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

Cambridge molecular scientist shares Nobel chemistry prize

Martin Luther King woken up by Stockholm's Lucia in 1964 Martin Luther King woken up by Stockholm's Lucia in 1964
Stacy Diaz | 06 October, 2017, 00:18

The names of Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson are displayed on the screen during the announcement of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017, in Stockholm, Sweden, October 4.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said their method, called cryo-electron microscopy, allows researchers to "freeze biomolecules" mid-movement and helps them visualise the processes they have never previously seen. And because of the techniques developed by Frank and Dubochet, it was possible to capture models like this of any sort of biomolecule, not only those protected by membranes.

Speaking at the conference by telephone, Frank said that the development of cryo-electron microscopy "fills an important gap and extends the range of molecules that can be determined at atomic resolution". Toward the end of Wednesday's event, a journalist from Chinese radio asked Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Secretary General Göran K. Hansson about the prevalence of Americans, and what it says about USA research environment and policies. The prize is worth of 9 million ($1.1 million).

"We are facing a revolution in biochemistry", said Sara Snogerup Linse, the Nobel committee chair, who is also a professor at Lund University. Together, these discoveries have not only benefitted scientific research but have optimised the strengths of electron microscopes. Using it, scientists have made high-resolution, 3D images to target cancer drugs and demystify the Zika virus.

"There are so many other discoveries every day, I was in a way speechless", said Frank, a biochemistry professor at Columbia University in NY.

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A Columbia University professor is one victor of the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on innovative and better ways to capture images of biomolecules.

A year ago the Nobel prize in chemistry received three European scientists for the creation of "molecular machines" - the smallest cars in the world.

During the same decade, Frank, of Columbia University in NY, and his colleagues developed image-processing software to make sense of the fuzzy images that are produced when an electron microscope is aimed at a protein, and to convert these two-dimensional blurs into 3D molecular structures. So, he turned to electron microscopy, a method that had then been unable to resolve atomic details. But the powerful electron beams can incinerate the material as they pass through it, weakening the beam and producing fuzzy images. Using this technique, researchers have been able to study the structure of a variety of biological molecules, from proteins involved in circadian rhythms to the Zika virus. This breakthrough proved the technology's potential. Joachim Frank, a professor at Colombia University in NY, expanded on electron microscopy, making it more flexible and more widely applicable.

You're absolutely right, in the old form of electron microscopy you saw the contours, but you didn't see the atoms.

From 1901 to 2016 was awarded to 108 Nobel prize in chemistry.

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