In DepthNobel Prizes

Cold, clear view of molecules nets chemistry prize

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Science  13 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6360, pp. 156-157
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6360.156

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More than a dozen Nobel Prizes have been awarded over the past century for techniques that use x-rays to take pictures of proteins and other complex molecules. This year, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to three pioneers of an approach that could ultimately displace x-rays: Jacques Dubochet of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, Joachim Frank of Columbia University, and Richard Henderson of the Medical Research Council Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge, U.K. Called cryo–electron microscopy, it can take snapshots of large, wriggly structures, such as the cell's proteinmaking machinery and the structure of the Zika virus, that x-rays have trouble seeing. Use of the new technique is growing fast among biologists, and has funding agencies around the globe racing to build new imaging centers.