Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.
When you set out to study anatomy and physiology, you might be surprised to learn how many chemical reactions take place within your body. In fact, there is an entire branch of science devoted to that topic called biochemistry, which is the study of the chemical substances and processes in living things. Because the prefix 'bio' refers to 'life,' you can see how biochemistry got its name. It is literally chemistry that is studied, not in a lab full of test tubes, but instead in the laboratory we call the human body. In this lesson, you will learn about different types of biochemical reactions to gain a better understanding of how your body functions.
Your entire body is made up of chemicals, and they are constantly interacting with one another. A biochemical reaction is the term we use to describe the interaction of two or more substances to produce another substance. There are biochemical reactions underlying all body processes, from the digestion of the foods you eat to your ability to generate enough energy to go for a walk.
We will look at a few specific biochemical reactions in a moment, but first it will be helpful to define a couple of simple terms. We mentioned that a biochemical reaction is the process that occurs when a number of substances interact to produce another substance. The substances that interact are referred to as reactants, and the substance that is produced in the biochemical reaction is called a product.
Biochemical reactions involve the making and breaking of bonds between reactants, and most biochemical reactions occur in recognizable patterns. The first pattern we will look at is called a synthesis reaction. We know that the word synthesis means 'to combine,' and we see that a synthesis reaction is a reaction in which two or more reactants combine to form a more complex substance. This reaction is often represented as: A + B --> AB.
Synthesis reactions involve the formation of bonds between two substances. So, you might want to think of synthesis reactions as reactions that build things in your body. Because of this fact, we see synthesis reactions are important for body growth and when we need to repair damaged tissues. An example of a common synthesis reaction in the body is the formation of a protein molecule. We know that the basic building blocks of protein are amino acids. Amino acids undergo a synthesis reaction when they join together to form a protein molecule.
A decomposition reaction is the opposite of a synthesis reaction. We know that when something decomposes, it basically breaks down. A decomposition reaction is a reaction in which a more complex substance is broken down into two or more smaller substances. This reaction is often represented as: AB --> A + B. Decomposition reactions involve the breaking of bonds to form simpler and smaller products, so you would be correct to think of decomposition reactions as reactions that break down things in your body.
Because of this fact, we see decomposition reactions are important when we consider processes such as digestion of food or the breakdown of glycogen, which is a large carbohydrate molecule stored in the muscles and liver. For example, when your blood glucose, or blood sugar level, is low, stored glycogen molecules will undergo a decomposition reaction to release more glucose into the blood.
Some biochemical reactions are reversible, and these reactions are conveniently referred to as reversible reactions. In a reversible reaction, reactants can interact to form products, but products can also react to form the reactants. In other words, these reactions can take place in either direction according to the conditions that are present. They are denoted by a double arrow pointing both directions.
For example, you could have a carbon dioxide molecule (CO2) combine with a water molecule (H2O) to produce carbonic acid (H2CO3), which is the basis of carbonated beverages, like soda. This can be shown by the synthesis reaction: CO2 + H2O --> H2CO3.
This reaction could also happen in reverse - carbonic acid (H2CO3) can decompose into water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2). This can be shown by the decomposition reaction: H2CO3 --> H20 + CO2. You may notice that when you open a bottle of a carbonated soda, the carbon dioxide bubbles up and the gas is released into the air.
Because we see that this reaction can go in both directions, it is a reversible reaction, and the reaction would be shown with a double arrow between the reactants and products: H20 + CO2 <--> H2CO3.
Let's review. A biochemical reaction is the interaction of two or more substances to produce another substance. The substances that interact are called reactants, and the substance that is produced is called a product.
Biochemical reactions occur in recognizable patterns. One type of reaction is called a synthesis reaction. A synthesis reaction is a reaction in which two or more reactants combine to form a more complex substance. In other words: A + B --> AB.
The opposite of a synthesis reaction is a decomposition reaction, which is a reaction in which a more complex substance is broken down into two or more smaller substances. This is often represented as: AB --> A + B.
Some biochemical reactions are reversible and referred to as reversible reactions. In these reactions, reactants can interact to form products, but products can also react to form the reactants. These types of reactions are represented by a double arrow pointing in both directions: H20 + CO2 <--> H2CO3.
Following this lesson, you will be able to:
- Define reactants and products
- Explain what happens during synthesis and decomposition reactions
- Summarize how some reactions are reversible
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