The three Nobel Chemistry laureates of 2017 were announced on Thursday morning in Stockholm.
The three Nobel Chemistry laureates of 2017 were announced on Thursday morning in Stockholm. Credit: Claudio Bresciani/TT

This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry is about "cool microscope technology"

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The 2017 winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry are Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson for developing "cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution."

The accomplishment of the three laureates both simplifies and improves the imaging of biomolecules, according to The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which said on Wednesday that this method "has moved biochemistry into a new era".

The Academy said that the trio's work has shed light on images of life's molecular machinery that previously had been invisible to the human eye.

As a result of cryo-electron microscopy, 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 Academy said.

It added that researchers can now routinely produce three-dimensional structures of biomolecules.

Joachim Frank was asked by Swedish Television SVT to explain how his discovery could be used in research. “The practical use is immense,” he said. But he added that "it takes time for fundamental research to impact on medicine".

Jacques Dubochet works at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. American Joachim Frank is at Columbia University, New York, USA and Richard Henderson, who is Scottish, works at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK.

Seven of the nine science prizes this year have gone to researchers from the US.

The Chemistry award was the third and last of the science prizes to be awarded during the Nobel week. It is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Prize winners share an award of SEK 9 million.

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