Posted in | News

Cool Microscope Technology Revolutionises Biochemistry

From blobology to atomic resolution. The electron microscope’s resolution has radically improved in the last few years, from mostly showing shapeless blobs to now being able to visualise proteins at atomic resolution. Illustration: Martin Högbom

We may soon have detailed images of life’s complex machineries in atomic resolution. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017 is awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson for the development of cryo-electron microscopy, which both simplifies and improves the imaging of biomolecules. This method has moved biochemistry into a new era.

A picture is a key to understanding. Scientific breakthroughs often build upon the successful visualisation of objects invisible to the human eye. However, biochemical maps have long been filled with blank spaces because the available technology has had difficulty generating images of much of life’s molecular machinery. Cryo-electron microscopy changes all of this. Researchers can now freeze biomolecules mid-movement and visualise processes they have never previously seen, which is decisive for both the basic understanding of life’s chemistry and for the development of pharmaceuticals.

Electron microscopes were long believed to only be suitable for imaging dead matter, because the powerful electron beam destroys biological material. But in 1990, Richard Henderson succeeded in using an electron microscope to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at atomic resolution. This breakthrough proved the technology’s potential.

Joachim Frank made the technology generally applicable. Between 1975 and 1986 he developed an image processing method in which the electron microscope’s fuzzy two-dimensional images are analysed and merged to reveal a sharp three-dimensional structure.

Jacques Dubochet added water to electron microscopy. Liquid water evaporates in the electron microscope’s vacuum, which makes the biomolecules collapse. In the early 1980s, Dubochet succeeded in vitrifying water – he cooled water so rapidly that it solidified in its liquid form around a biological sample, allowing the biomolecules to retain their natural shape even in a vacuum.

Following these discoveries, the electron microscope’s every nut and bolt have been optimised. The desired atomic resolution was reached in 2013, and researchers can now routinely produce three-dimensional structures of biomolecules. In the past few years, scientific literature has been filled with images of everything from proteins that cause antibiotic resistance, to the surface of the Zika virus. Biochemistry is now facing an explosive development and is all set for an exciting future.   

Citations

Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Thermo Fisher Scientific – Electron Microscopy Solutions. (2017, October 05). Cool Microscope Technology Revolutionises Biochemistry. AZoOptics. Retrieved on February 25, 2024 from https://www.azooptics.com/News.aspx?newsID=23520.

  • MLA

    Thermo Fisher Scientific – Electron Microscopy Solutions. "Cool Microscope Technology Revolutionises Biochemistry". AZoOptics. 25 February 2024. <https://www.azooptics.com/News.aspx?newsID=23520>.

  • Chicago

    Thermo Fisher Scientific – Electron Microscopy Solutions. "Cool Microscope Technology Revolutionises Biochemistry". AZoOptics. https://www.azooptics.com/News.aspx?newsID=23520. (accessed February 25, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Thermo Fisher Scientific – Electron Microscopy Solutions. 2017. Cool Microscope Technology Revolutionises Biochemistry. AZoOptics, viewed 25 February 2024, https://www.azooptics.com/News.aspx?newsID=23520.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type
Submit
Azthena logo

AZoM.com powered by Azthena AI

Your AI Assistant finding answers from trusted AZoM content

Azthena logo with the word Azthena

Your AI Powered Scientific Assistant

Hi, I'm Azthena, you can trust me to find commercial scientific answers from AZoNetwork.com.

A few things you need to know before we start. Please read and accept to continue.

  • Use of “Azthena” is subject to the terms and conditions of use as set out by OpenAI.
  • Content provided on any AZoNetwork sites are subject to the site Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.
  • Large Language Models can make mistakes. Consider checking important information.

Great. Ask your question.

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.