By Daniel Cressey & Ewen Callaway
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded for work that helps researchers see what biomolecules look like.
Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson were awarded the prize on 4 October for their work in developing cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), a technique that fires beams of electrons at proteins that have been frozen in solution, to deduce the biomolecules’ structure.
For decades, biologists have used X-ray crystallography — blasting X-rays at crystallized proteins — to image biomolecular structures. But labs are now racing to adopt the cryo-EM method, because it can take pictures of proteins that can’t easily be formed into large crystals. The tool has “moved biochemistry into a new era”, says the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize.
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