Personal tools

Modern Biochemistry

Hoover Tower_Stantford University_050422A
[Hoover Tower, Stanford University]


- Overview

Biochemistry is the application of chemistry to study biological processes at the cellular and molecular levels. It became a distinct discipline in the early 20th century, when scientists combined chemistry, physiology and biology to study the chemistry of living systems. 

Biochemistry is both a life science and a chemical science - it explores the chemical properties of living organisms and the molecular basis of changes in living cells. It uses methods from chemistry, physics, molecular biology and immunology to study the structure and behavior of complex molecules found in biological materials, and the way these molecules interact to form cells, tissues and entire organisms. 

For example, biochemists are interested in the mechanisms of brain function, cell proliferation and differentiation, communication within and between cells and organs, and the chemical basis of genetics and disease. Biochemists try to determine how specific molecules such as proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, vitamins and hormones function in these processes. Particular emphasis is placed on the regulation of chemical reactions in living cells. 


- The Main Research Areas of Modern Biochemistry

Today, research in biochemistry can be broadly divided into three main areas: 

  • Structural chemistry of living substances and the relationship between biological functions and chemical structures;
  • Metabolism, the sum of chemical reactions that take place in an organism;
  • The chemistry of processes and substances that store and transmit biological information. The third field is also the field of molecular genetics, which aims to understand heredity and express genetic information in molecular terms.


- Biochemistry and Biomedical Science

Biochemistry has a profound impact on the medical field. The molecular mechanisms of many diseases, such as sickle cell anemia and many metabolic errors, have been elucidated. Today, enzymatic activity assays are essential in clinical diagnosis. To name just one example, liver disease is now routinely diagnosed and monitored by measuring blood levels of an enzyme called transaminases and a breakdown product of hemoglobin called bilirubin. 

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) probes play a role in the diagnosis of genetic diseases, infectious diseases and cancer. Genetically engineered bacterial strains containing recombinant DNA are producing valuable proteins such as insulin and growth hormone. Furthermore, biochemistry is the basis for the rational design of new drugs. Furthermore, the rapid development of powerful biochemical concepts and techniques in recent years has enabled researchers to address some of the most challenging and fundamental problems in medicine and physiology. 

In embryology, for example, the mechanisms by which fertilized embryos produce cells different from those of muscle, brain and liver are being intensively studied. Furthermore, in anatomy, the question of how cells find each other to form complex organs such as the liver or brain is being solved biochemically. The impact of biochemistry is being felt in many areas of human life, and research and discovery through this are advancing the entire life sciences. 

For example, the biochemistry of digestion includes the study of pathways that involve changes in molecular structure and all the enzymatic interactions that occur when large food molecules (proteins, lipids or carbohydrates) are broken down into smaller molecules that can be absorbed and utilized by the cells of the living body .


- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology

Fundamental advances in biochemistry have also led to important advances in genetics and molecular biology. The composition of DNA and the subsequent discovery of the double helix structure provides a critical and highly demonstrable link between biochemical form and function. The structure of the DNA molecule is ideal for its ability to replicate more of itself. The hydrogen bonds between the base pairs of the DNA double helix allow the double-stranded double helix molecule to be easily unwound, so that each piece can serve as a pattern to build new DNA molecules. 

Another area of ​​interest for biochemists involves the flow of genetic information from DNA to RNA to proteins, which is the same in all organisms. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the universal currency of energy in biological systems, and all forms of life are produced in a similar way. In addition, biochemists were able to unravel some central metabolic pathways and energy conversion mechanisms. The determination of the three-dimensional structure and mechanism of action of many protein molecules is also an important achievement in the field of biochemistry. 

The identification and sequencing of the genes that cause disease, and gene cloning techniques have made remarkable progress in understanding the relationship between genes and proteins. In addition, the molecular basis of several diseases is now known, such as sickle cell anemia and many inborn errors of metabolism. Biochemical measurement of enzymatic activity has become essential in clinical diagnosis. 

In fact, the field of biochemistry, which studies the relationship between the structure and function of biomolecules at the molecular level, has been profoundly transformed by recombinant DNA technology. This has led to the integration of molecular genetics and protein biochemistry. The complex interplay of genetic makeup (genotype) and how molecular structure affects function and various physical characteristics (phenotype) is now being unraveled at the molecular level.



[More to come ...]


Document Actions