Biology Current Affairs - 2020

Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson selected for 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has selected Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson for the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

They were selected for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution.  Chemistry was third of this year’s Nobel Prizes.

Contributions of trio

Richard Henderson in 1990 was successful in using an electron microscope to generate a 3D image of a protein at atomic resolution. Joachim Frank made technology more widely applicable. Jacques Dubochet had helped with vitrification of water, which ensured that biological sample retained its natural shape even in vacuum and while frozen.

Cryo-electron microscopy

The Cryo-electron microscopy is specific type of electron microscopy based on principle of forming three-dimensional (3D) image by collecting and combining thousands of projections of biomolecules. Using it, researchers can now freeze mid-movement of biomolecules and can visualise processes they have never seen. ‎

It helps to make it possible to see biomolecules in 3D after rapidly freezing them at -150°C (i.e. at cryogenic temperature), preserving their natural shape. It can reveal the structure of the molecules of life in exquisite detail. It is decisive for both basic understanding of chemistry and for development of pharmaceuticals.

Significance: Cryo-electron microscopy gives scientists opportunity to look at machinery of life in 3D form. This was not possible with earlier forms of electron microscopes as more powerful beams would destroy biological matter. It allows the study of fine cellular structures, viruses and protein complexes at molecular resolution.

Three US-born scientists win 2017 Nobel Medicine Prize

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall (72), Michael Rosbash (73) and Michael W. Young (68). It was announced by Nobel Assembly at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.

‎They were awarded for discovering molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythm. Their discoveries explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with Earth’s revolutions.

Circardian Rhythm

Circardian Rhythm is 24 hour cycle in physiological processes of living beings, including plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria. It influences such biological functions as hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism.

These three noble laureates dsing the fruit fly as a model organism, had isolated a gene that controls daily biological rhythm. They had showed that this gene encodes a protein that accumulates in cell during night and is then degraded during the day.

Subsequently they identified additional protein components of this machinery, exposing mechanism governing the self-sustaining clockwork inside the cell. They also had raised awareness of importance of proper sleep hygiene.

Nobel Medicine Prize

The Nobel award for medicine is given to persons whose discoveries have significantly enhanced understanding of life or practice of medicine. The winners are chosen by Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute. The prestigious award carries prize money of 8 million Swedish kroner or 1.1 million dollars. Medicine is first of the Nobel Prizes awarded each year. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite in 1895.