The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on 4 October 2017 awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution.
Through Cryo-electron microscopy, researchers can now freeze biomolecules mid-movement and visualise processes they have never previously seen, which is crucial for the basic understanding of life’s chemistry and for the development of pharmaceuticals.
Earlier, electron microscopes were long believed to only be suitable for imaging dead matter, but in 1990, Richard Henderson of MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge succeeded in using an electron microscope to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at atomic resolution.
Joachim Frank of Columbia University, USA developed an image processing method in which the electron microscopes fuzzy two dimensional images are analysed and merged to reveal a sharp three-dimensional structure.
While, Jacques Dubochet of University of Lausanne, Switzerland added water to electron microscopy. Liquid water evaporates in the electron microscope's vacuum, which makes the biomolecules collapse.
Following these discoveries, the desired atomic resolution was reached in 2013 and researchers can now routinely produce three-dimensional structures of biomolecules.
When: 4 October 2017