Biochemistry, Scope and Importance

By sezanur.rahman 21-Jan-2018

Photo: a Biochemistry Lab

Story Highlights

  • Biochemistry, sometimes called biological chemistry is the study of the structure, composition, and chemical reactions of substances in living systems.  By controlling information flow through biochemical signaling and the flow of chemical energy through metabolism, biochemical processes give rise to the complexity of life. Biochemistry emerged as a separate discipline when scientists combined biology with organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry and began to study how living things obtain energy from food, the chemical basis of heredity, what fundamental changes occur in disease, and related issues. Biochemistry includes the sciences of molecular biology, immunochemistry, and neurochemistry, as well as bioinorganic, bioorganic, and biophysical chemistry.  But today, the main focus of pure biochemistry is on understanding how biological molecules give rise to the processes that occur within living cells, which in turn relates greatly to the study and understanding of tissues, organs, and whole organisms—that is, all of biology.

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Introduction and Definition of Biochemistry

The most conspicuous attribute o living organisms is that they are complicated and highly organized. The cells of which they are composed possess intricate internal structure containing many kind of complex molecule and chemical reactions.

The term "biochemistry" itself is derived from a combination of biology and chemistry. In 1877, Felix Hoppe-Seyler used the term (biochemie in German) as a synonym for physiological chemistry in the foreword to the first issue of Zeitschrift für Physiologische Chemie (Journal of Physiological Chemistry) where he argued for the setting up of institutes dedicated to this field of study.

 

History of Biochemistry

Some argued that the beginning of biochemistry may have been the discovery of the first enzyme, diastase (today called amylase), in 1833 by Anselme Payen, while others considered Eduard Buchner's first demonstration of a complex biochemical process alcoholic fermentation in cell-free extracts in 1897 to be the birth of biochemistry. Some might also point as its beginning to the influential 1842 work by Justus von Liebig, Animal chemistry, or, Organic chemistry in its applications to physiology and pathology, which presented a chemical theory of metabolism, or even earlier to the 18th century studies on fermentation and respiration by Antoine Lavoisier.

In 1828, Friedrich Wöhler published a paper on the synthesis of urea, proving that organic compounds can be created artificially. Since then, biochemistry has advanced, especially since the mid-20th century, with the development of new techniques such as chromatography, X-ray diffraction, dual polarisation interferometry, NMR spectroscopy, radioisotopic labeling, electron microscopy, and molecular dynamics simulations. These techniques allowed for the discovery and detailed analysis of many molecules and metabolic pathways of the cell, such as glycolysis and the Krebs cycle (citric acid cycle).

Modern biochemistry developed out of and largely came to replace what in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was called physiological chemistry, which dealt more with extra cellular chemistry, such as the chemistry of digestion and of body fluids. The name Biochemistry was coined in 1903 by a German chemist named Carl Neuber. However, work in this very living, aspect of chemistry had started much earlier. Claude Bernard is accredited with the Sirehood of Biochemistry. During the later part of the nineteenth century eminent scientists contributed a great deal to the elucidation of the chemistry of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. At this period some very fundamental aspects of enzymology were under close scrutiny. Study of nucleic acid is central to the knowledge of life but its fusion with biochemistry started with works of Fredrick Sanger and Har Gobind Khurana. Their experiments involved a subtle bland of enzymology and chemistry that few would have thought possible to combine. The scientists were busy removing the mist that was mitigating the light of knowledge but they still lacked an insight into the cell. In 1990's research turned to finding the structural details of cell. The field of molecular biochemistry was also progressing at an almost unstoppable speed having expanded its horizons beyond human imagination with the introduction of PCR, creating waves of appreciation from every field of medicine and then coming out of the lab to help establish better therapies for various diseases by introduction of gene therapy. Biochemistry has promises to the world of science in development of new path-breaking research and coming times would surely prove these promises to be fulfilled.

 

Scope of Biochemistry

Modern Biochemistry has two branches, descriptive Biochemistry and dynamic Biochemistry. Descriptive Biochemistry deals with the qualitative and quantitative characterization of the various cell components and the dynamic Biochemistry deals with the elucidation of the nature and the mechanism of the reactions involving these cell components. Many newer disciplines have been emerged from Biochemistry such of Enzymology (study of enzymes), Endocrinology (study of hormones) Clinical Biochemistry (study of diseases), Molecular Biochemistry (Study of Biomolecules and their functions). Along with these branches certain other specialties have also come up such as Agricultural Biochemistry, Pharmacological Biochemistry etc.

 

Objectives of Biochemistry

The major objective of Biochemistry is the complete understanding of all the chemical processes associated with living cells at the molecular level. To achieve this objective, biochemists have attempted to isolate numerous molecules (Bio molecules) found in cells, to determine their structures and to analyze how they function. Biochemical studies have illuminated many aspects of disease and the study of certain diseases have opened up new therapeutic approaches. In brief the objectives can be listed as follows:
1. Isolation, structural elucidation and the determination of mode of action of biomolecules.
2. Identification of disease mechanisms.
3. Study of in born errors of metabolism
4. Study of oncogenes in cancer cells
5. The relationship of biochemistry with genetics, physiology, immunology, pharmacology, toxicology etc.


Importance of biochemistry in MEDICINE

• Physiology: Biochemistry helps one understand the biochemical changes and related physiological alteration in the body.
• Pathology: Based on the symptoms described by the patient, physician can get clue on the biochemical change and the associated disorder. For example if a patient complains about stiffness in small joints, then physician may predict it to be gout and get confirmed by evaluating uric acid levels in the blood. As uric acid accumulation in blood results in gout.
• Nursing and diagnosis: In nursing importance of clinical biochemistry is invaluable. Also almost all the diseases or disorders have some biochemical involvement. So the diagnosis of any clinical condition is easily possible by biochemical estimations.

Importance of biochemistry in AGRICULTURE

• Prevent diseases and Enhance Yield/ growth: It helps for prevention, treatment of diseases and also increase the production or yield. Some hormones promote growth, while other promote flowering, fruit formation etc. In fisheries, use of substances to promote fish growth, their reproduction etc can be understood.
• Adulteration: Even the composition of food material produced, their alteration or adulteration for example in honey can be found by biochemical tests. Biochemistry tests help prevent contamination.
• Biochemical tests for the pesticide residues or other toxic waste in plant, food grain and soil can be evaluated. Hence during import and export of food grains a biochemical check of the toxic residues is done to fix the quality.
• In animal husbandry, the quality of milk can be checked by biochemical tests. It also helps diagnose any disease condition in animals and birds.
• In fisheries the water quality is regularly monitored by biochemical tests. Any drastic change in water chemistry & composition of fishery ponds can lead to vast death of fishes and prawns, hence the tests are done on regular basis to see salt content (calcium content), pH, accumulation of waste due to not changing water for long etc.
• In Plant/ Botany: Biochemistry of plants gave way to breakthrough of how food is synthesized in them and the reason why they are autotrophs i.e. not dependent on other living beings for food. Biochemistry in plants describes; Photosynthesis; Respiration; Different sugars; Plants secondary metabolites.

Importance of biochemistry in NUTRITION

• Food chemistry gives an idea of what we eat. The nutrients value of food material can also be determined by biochemical tests.
• Role of nutrients: Due to biochemistry the importance of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, their contribution to health were known. Hence there is frequent recommendation for inclusion of essential amino-acids, cod liver oil, salmon fish oil etc. by physicians and other health and fitness experts.
• Physician can prescribe to limit usage of certain food like excess sugar for diabetics, excess oil for heart & lung problem prone patients etc. As these carbohydrate and fat biochemical can inhibit the recovery rate from said disorder. This knowledge is due to their idea on food chemistry and related


Importance of biochemistry in PHARMACY

• Drug Constitution: Biochemistry gives an idea of the constitution of the drug, its chances of degradation with varying temperature etc. How modification in the medicinal chemistry helps improve efficiency, minimize side effects etc.
• The half life and Drug storage: This is a test done on biochemical drugs to know how long a drug is stable when kept at so and so temperature. For example many enzymes, hormones are stored for dispensing. These get deteriorated over time due to temperature or oxidation, contamination and also due to improper storage.
• Drug metabolism: It also gives an idea of how drug molecules are metabolized by many biochemical reactions in presence of enzymes. This helps to avoid drugs which have poor metabolism or those with excessive side effects from being prescribed or dispensed to the patient.

 

Name of Nobel Laureates and their contribution for recent research in Biochemistry

In 2015, Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar ‘for mechanistic studies of DNA repair’; in 2014 John O'Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser ‘for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain’; in 2013 James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof ‘for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells’; in 2012 Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka ‘for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors’ in 2009 Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A. Steitz and Ada E. Yonath ‘for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome’ also Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak ‘for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase’ in 2008 Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Y. Tsien ‘for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP’ in 2007 Mario R. Capecchi, Sir Martin J. Evans and Oliver Smithies ‘for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells’ in 2006 Roger D. Kornberg ‘for his studies of the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription’ also Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello ‘for their discovery of RNA interference - gene silencing by double-stranded RNA’ in 2004 Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko and Irwin Rose ‘for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation’ also Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck ‘for their discoveries of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system.’


References

1. http://www.acs.org/
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochemistry
3. Karp, Gerald (19 October 2009). Cell and Molecular Biology: Concepts and Experiments. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780470483374
4. Singh P1, Batra HS, Naithani M. (2004) History of biochemistry. Bull Indian Inst Hist Med Hyderabad. Jan-Jun;34(1):75-86. PMID: 17152615
5. http://biochemistryden.blogspot.com/2010/02/introduction-scope-of-biochemistry.html
6. http://www.rajaha.com/importance-biochemistry/
7. https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/lists/all/

By sezanur.rahman 21-Jan-2018

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