Nobel Prize for Cambridge biomolecule pioneer

  • Nobel Prize for Cambridge biomolecule pioneer

Nobel Prize for Cambridge biomolecule pioneer

Last year's chemistry Nobel also went to small-scale work, honoring three scientists who worked to construct molecular machines - including the first molecular motor.

He shares the honour jointly with Jacques Dubochet and Joachim Frank "for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution". By freezing biomolecules in the middle of their activity, scientists can better understand the inner workings of the molecular machinery that keeps us alive.

This has been "decisive for both the basic understanding of life's chemistry and for the development of pharmaceuticals", it added.

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.

It jump-started the search for treatments, since most drugs now work within cells.

Dubochet is affiliated with the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland; Frank is affiliated with Columbia University in New York; Henderson is affiliated with the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, U.K.

Some of the electrons are scattered away when they bump into the protein molecules, and some pass straight to a photodetector on the other side.

More Nobel laureates for 2017 are named.

Then it was Dubochet who added water to the electron microscope and in the 1980s succeeded in cooling 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. Henderson, in 1990, was able to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at atom-level resolution, showing the technology's potential, the Nobel committee said.

His breakthrough was further developed by German-born scientist Frank, a US citizen, while Dubochet of Switzerland used rapidly frozen water to preserve the natural shape of the biomolecules.

Processing the images with a computer is a key step, to which Joachim Frank made major early contributions.

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.

Nobel prizes can shine a light on areas of science which are making a huge impact in laboratories across the world, but may not be well known among the wider public.

The medicine prize went to three Americans studying circadian rhythms: Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young. It was awarded by Rainer Weiss, berry Bersu and Kpov Thorne for the study of gravitational waves.

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