Three scientists who produced an atom-by-atom map of the mysterious, life-giving ribosome won the Nobel Prize for chemistry on Wednesday, a breakthrough that has been vital for the development of new antibiotics.
While DNA molecules contain the blueprint for life inside each cell of every organism, it is the ribosome that translates that information into life.
Americans Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz and Israeli Ada Yonath shared the 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.4 million) prize for showing how the ribosome, which produces protein, functions at the atomic level.
"As ribosomes are crucial to life, they are also a major target for new antibiotics," the Nobel Committee for Chemistry at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.
All three scientists have used a method called X-ray crystallography to map the position for each of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome.
The academy said many of today's antibiotics cure various diseases by blocking the function of bacterial ribosomes.
The Nobel prizes are handed out annually for outstanding achievements in science, peace, literature and economics. This was the third of this year's Nobel prizes, following awards for medicine or physiology on Monday and for physics on Tuesday.
The prize committee said the three had all generated three-dimensional models which showed how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome.
"These models are now used by scientists in order to develop new antibiotics, directly assisting the saving of lives and decreasing humanity's suffering," it said.
This was the third of this year's Nobel prizes, following awards for medicine or physiology on Monday and for physics on Tuesday.
Prizes for the sciences and for peace were established in the will of 19th century dynamite tycoon Alfred Nobel and have been handed out since 1901. Sweden's central bank began awarding a prize for economics in 1969.
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