Scientists awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry for biomolecular imaging

By Sara Shayanian

Oct. 4 (UPI) -- The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded Wednesday to three scientists for developments in simplifying and improving the imaging of biomolecules.

Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank, and Richard Henderson were jointly awarded the prize by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.


Although electron microscopes were long presumed only to be able to image dead matter, Henderson proved that false in 1990 when he successfully used the equipment to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at atomic resolution.

"Frank developed an image processing method in which the electron microscope's fuzzy two-dimensional images are analyzed and merged to reveal a sharp three-dimensional structure," the Nobel announcement said.

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"In the early 1980s, Dubochet succeeded in vitrifying water," the announcement continued. "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."

The scientists were able to optimize the microscope to provide three-dimensional structures of biomolecules, from the surface of the Zika virus to proteins that cause antibiotic resistance.

Dubochet earned a doctoral degree in 1973 at the University of Geneva and University of Basel and became an honorary professor of biophysics at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

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Frank earned his doctorate in 1970 at the Technical University of Munich, Germany. He later went on to become a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics and of biological sciences at Columbia University.

Henderson earned his doctorate from Cambridge University in Britain in 1969, and later became the program leader at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge.

Additional Nobel Prizes will be awarded over the next few days -- literature on Thursday, peace on Friday and economics on Oct. 9.

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