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Classical Biochemistry

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(Photo: Princeton University, Office of Communications)

- Disciplines of Classical Biochemistry

Biochemistry involves the study of chemical processes in living organisms. The remarkable biology of our bodies fascinates us, especially after learning about their various biological processes. Biochemical reactions take place inside the cell and in specific places called organelles within the cell. 

Organisms use metabolic processes to generate energy, respiration to absorb oxygen, digestion to break down nutrients into usable forms, and excretion to eliminate waste. We need to understand these basic concepts to better understand how our bodies work. 

The cornerstone of classical biochemical research has focused on the properties of proteins, many of which are enzymes. However, there are other disciplines that focus on the biological properties of carbohydrates (glycobiology) and lipids (lipid biology). 


- Proteins

Understanding proteins can unlock the mysteries of our daily activities. Protein is one of the major players in our lives. Individual proteins have a definite shape and structure. Proteins work together in complex and coordinated ways to support our lives.

In other words, understanding the function of proteins can give us clues to answering the question "What is life?" A closer look at these structures can reveal how they work. Structural biology is a field of study that studies protein function based on protein structure. 

Although no creatures have been found other than our planet, we may find one in the future. To properly understand the characteristics and nature of this terrestrial creature, we need to understand how life on Earth began and evolved.


[Examples of Protein Structures - The Protein Data Bank (PDB)]

- Lipids

Fats and lipids are important components of the body's homeostatic function. Lipids help with some of the most important processes in the body. 

Biological molecules that are insoluble in aqueous solution and soluble in organic solvents are classified as lipids. Lipids in biological systems include fats, sterols, fat soluble vitamins, phospholipids, and triglycerides. 

The lipids of physiological importance for humans exert the following major functions: 

  • They serve as structural components of biological membranes. 
  • They provide energy reserves, predominantly in the form of triglycerides (TG; also called triacyglycerols, TAG). 
  • Lipids and lipid derivatives serve as biologically active molecules exerting a wide range of functions. 
  • Lipophilic bile acids aid in emulsification, digestion and absorption of dietary lipids as well as being a form of bioactive lipids.


- Organelles

An organelle is a subcellular structure that has one or more specific jobs in a cell, much like an organ does in the body. The more important organelle is the nucleus, which stores genetic information. mitochondria, which produce chemical energy; and ribosomes, which assemble proteins. 

Organelles are specific structures within a cell, and there are many different types of organelles. Organelles are also called intracellular vesicles. They do have an important function because we need to divide all the functions inside the cell. Therefore, there needs to be a membrane around the mechanisms that make different products within the cell. So really, organelles are all membrane bound. They separate one function from another. 

For example, mitochondria have the function of producing energy, while lysosomes have the function of producing small molecules from large molecules, breaking these things down. They need to be compartmentalized because all the pathways in the mitochondria, all the proteins and enzymes in them, need to convert one chemical into another, and the lysosomes need an acidic pH. 

If these things are mixed together, there will be no functionality at all. So this is really the heart and soul of organelles: being compartmentalized and allowing high concentrations of proteins or acids, or whatever creates this environment, so that specific functions can be performed.


- Enzymes

Enzymes are biocatalysts (also called biocatalysts) that speed up biochemical reactions in living organisms. They can also be extracted from cells and then used to catalyze various important commercial processes. For example, they play an important role in the production of sweeteners and the modification of antibiotics, they are used in laundry detergents and various cleaning products, and they play an important role in analytical devices and assays with clinical, forensic and environmental applications play a key role in. 

The word "enzyme" was first used by German physiologist Wilhelm Kühne in 1878 when he described the ability of yeast to produce alcohol from sugar, derived from the Greek words en (meaning "inside") and zume (meaning 'yeast' ). 

Every day, trillions of chemical reactions take place in our bodies to make basic metabolic processes happen. Enzymes are proteins that act on substrate molecules and reduce the activation energy required for chemical reactions to occur by stabilizing transition states. This stabilization speeds up the responses and allows them to occur at a physiologically significant rate. Enzymes bind substrates at key locations in their structure called active sites. They are usually highly specific and bind only certain substrates for certain reactions. Without enzymes, most metabolic reactions would take longer and not fast enough to sustain life.


[More to come ...]


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