Nobel winner ‘like Google Earth for molecules’

Jacques Dubochet, University of Lausanne, one of the 2017 Nobel Prize winners in Chemistry smiles before a press conference at the University of Lausanne, Unil, in Lausanne Switzerland, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.  (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)
STOCKHOLM (AP) — The president of the American Chemical Society says the microscope imaging technique honored by this year’s Nobel Chemistry Prize is like Google Earth for molecules.
“This discovery allows the scientist to zoom in down to the fine detail (which) gives you a wealth of information about that protein molecule and how it’s interacting with its environment,” Allison A. Campbell told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Potential payoffs include help in developing medicines and industrial chemicals, she said. But not right away.

“I think it’s something for the future,” Campbell said. “I think this is a technique that is just starting to find its way into the research community.”

The Nobel committee announced Wednesday three scientists share the Chemistry Prize for the technology, called cryo-electron microscopy.

Joachim Frank, who shares this year’s Nobel Chemistry Prize with two other researchers for developing a method to generate three-dimensional images of the molecules of life, says the potential use of the method is “immense.”

Speaking by phone, Frank told a news conference after the Nobel announcement Wednesday that the method, called cryo-electron microscopy, meant medicine no longer focuses on organs but “looks at the processes in the cell.”

Frank, based at New York’s Columbia University, shares the prize with Jacques Dubochet of the University of Lausanne and Richard Henderson of MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, Britain.

The Nobel committee said their technology “has taken biochemistry into a new era.”

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