Jacques Dubochet at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, Joachim Frank at Columbia University and Richard Henderson at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge will share the Nobel Prize for work they pursued separately over decades to improve the state of biological imaging.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences made the announcement on Wednesday.The Chemistry award has now been awarded 109 times, and only one laureate, Frederick Sanger, a British biochemist, has won the prestigious award twice in 1950 and 1980.
By freezing biomolecules mid-movement, scientists can unravel previously unseen processes - a major advance both for basic understanding and the potential development of new drugs.
Three researchers won a Nobel Prize on Wednesday for developing a microscope technique that lets scientists see exquisite details of the molecules that drive life - basically providing a front-row seat to study these tiny performers in their biological dance.
"The use of these methods has completely revolutionized structural biology so everyone now wants to buy this type of equipment and start this type of research, all over the world", Johan Aqvist, another Nobel committee member, told Reuters.
Why it matters: Cryo-electron microscopy is like a polaroid camera. "He said "I think they should give it to Jacques Dubochet". It was shown that the water evaporates in the vacuum present in the electron microscope. Toward the end of Wednesday's event, a journalist from Chinese radio asked Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Secretary General Göran K. Hansson about the prevalence of Americans, and what it says about US research environment and policies.
He explained that cryo-electron microscopy emerged back in the 1980s, and has been actively developing over the recent years due to the improvement in tool and computing platforms, including supercomputers.
The three, including Cambridge University's Richard Henderson, were able to develop a revolutionary new electron microscopy imaging technique that can see these molecules at the atomic level.
Henderson worked with bacteriorhodopsin, a purple-colour protein embedded in a photosynthesising organism's membrane. His breakthrough came in 1990, when he used cryo-EM to reveal the 3D structure of a bacterial protein called bacteriorhodopsin. "Soon, there are no more secrets".
Additional Nobel Prizes will be awarded over the next few days - literature on Thursday, peace on Friday and economics on October 9.
This year's prize is 9 million SEK (1.1 million US dollars), and will be shared by the three laureates.
The Nobel prize in Chemistry is the third of those being announced this year.
The latest Nobel Prize win comes after the medicine prize went to three Americans studying circadian rhythms - Jeffrey C Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W Young.