Biochemistry represents the meeting of two different sciences, biology and chemistry. Biology is the study of living things, while chemistry is the study of the organization and interactions of matter. Biochemists investigate the chemistry of living systems. Biochemists examine four major biological molecules: carbohydrates, lipids (fats), proteins, and nucleic acids (such as DNA). Biochemists try to understand how cells create and break down these molecules, what jobs each type of molecule does in the cell, and how it does it. For example, they study how DNA is copied when cells divide and what happens when this process goes wrong.
A Brief History
Biochemistry as a unique science has its roots in the early 1800s. Until this time, Biology and Chemistry were thought to be completely distinct disciplines. A scientific viewpoint referred to as vitalism said that the biological reactions that occurred within cells were unique and that these reactions were too complex to be described using chemistry. Then a German chemist named Friedrich Wohler performed a pioneering biochemical experiment that showed that urea, a compound found in living organisms, could be created from nonliving matter through chemical reactions in the laboratory. Wohler presented his findings in 1828, but another 70 years passed before it was shown that the same reactions that take place inside cells can take place after cells are broken open. The ability to study cellular processes in a test tube revolutionized our understanding of cell biology, and the era of biochemistry was born.
In the next post, we will discuss what biochemists study. Leave a comment below if you are interested in Biochemistry!
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