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Nobel prize in chemistry awarded for method to visualise biomolecules

Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to 3

The Nobel prize in chemistry has been awarded to three scientists for developing a technique to produce images of the molecules of life frozen in time.

Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson will receive equal shares of the 9m Swedish kronor (£825,000) prize, which was announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm on Wednesday.

The technique, called cryo-electron microscopy, allowed biomolecules to be visualised in their natural configuration for the first time, triggering a “revolution in biochemistry”, according to the Nobel committee. The latest versions of the technology mean scientists can record biochemical processes as they unfold in film-like sequences.

Earlier imaging techniques, such as X-ray crystallography, required samples to be studied in a rigid state, revealing little about the dynamics of proteins and enzymes – many of which could not be successfully crystallised in any case. Another microscopic technique, the electron microscope, was only suitable for imaging dead matter, because its powerful beam destroyed delicate biological structures.

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