The Nobel prize in chemistry was given for the visualization of molecules

The Nobel prize in chemistry was given for the visualization of molecules

The Nobel prize in chemistry was given for the visualization of molecules

"Each of these pictures represents a frame and they can be put together into a movie and we can see what the molecules do", said Peter Brzezinski, a member of the Nobel committee for chemistry.

Nobel Committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the prize in chemistry to three scientists - the Swiss Jacques Dubose, American Joachim Frank and Briton Richard Henderson.

Scientific breakthroughs often build upon the successful visualisation of objects invisible to the human eye, but for decades these biochemical maps have had large blank spaces because the available technology has had difficulty generating images of much of life's molecular machinery. 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.

"Normally, what I'd do if I was in Cambridge, we will have a party around teatime in the lab, but I expect we'll have it tomorrow instead", said Henderson.

Work over Richard's career has helped to advance the technique of electron microscopy, which bombards proteins or other large biological molecules with electrons rather than X-rays, so that the atomic structure of proteins can be determined.

For instance, the academy said the technique was used when scientists began suspecting the Zika virus was causing the epidemic of brain-damaged children in Brazil. But in 1990, Richard Henderson succeeded in using an electron microscope to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at atomic resolution.

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Indeed, cryo-electron microscopy is already delivering results, such as the recent discovery of the structure of tau protein filaments in Alzheimer's disease.

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"I congratulate Dr. Frank on this tremendous achievement and thank him for his many years of service to NY state".

He said he hasn't yet thought about what to do with the prize money, but added: "I was telling my wife that we don't have to worry about a dog sitter anymore".

Because the powerful electron beam destroys biological material, electron microscopes were long believed to work only when imaging dead matter.

Jacques Dubochet added water to electron microscopy.

Dubochet, Frank and Henderson Nobel Media. Ill.

Recent prizes have gone to scientists who developed molecular "machines" - molecules with controllable motions - and who mapped how cells fix damaged DNA, leading to improved cancer treatments.

Chemistry is the third of this year's Nobel Prizes after the winners of the medicine and physics prizes were announced earlier this week.

The literature victor will be named Thursday and the peace prize will be announced Friday.

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