What Is Biochemistry? - Definition, History & Topics

What Is Biochemistry? - Definition, History & Topics
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  • 0:00 What is Biochemistry?
  • 1:25 Topics in Biochemistry
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brekke Peterson Munks
Biochemistry allows us to understand how chemical processes, such as respiration, produces life functions in all living organisms. Learn about the definition, history and subtopics of biochemistry and test your knowledge of the subject with a short quiz.

What is Biochemistry?

The term biochemistry, which is the chemistry of life or the study of the processes behind all living organisms, was first coined in 1903 by Carl Neuberg, the father of biochemistry. Carl Neuberg studied the transport of soluble chemicals in cells which allowed for day to day cellular processes, such as respiration to be explained. Biochemistry had been studied and the word possibly used within the scientific community longer than 1903 in projects such as alcoholic fermentation, discovered by Eduard Buchner in 1896. This study is a prime example of the chemical processes that occur to either create a new compound or allow an organism to survive.

In the mid 1900s, biochemistry and its presence in the scientific world increased as feats in medicine, microbiology, and nutrition, not to mention war time efforts, dictated the need to understand the underlying processes behind life. This meant the study of how large chemical molecules like carbohydrates, lipids, and amino acids function in terms of structure and interactions within a living system. This led to studies in protein function and structure, which would later give scientists an understanding of nucleic acids in the later part of the 20th century allowing for the discovery of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, discovered by James Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins.

Topics in Biochemistry

In general, biochemistry explains the processes of life and how chemical interactions support life. Biochemistry is everywhere. When discussing topics in biochemistry, it is important to understand that if you have an interest in any 'ology,' it has roots directly or indirectly in biochemistry. General topics in biochemistry include: medicine, nutrition, molecular biology and plant and animal biology.

Medicine is a broad category but relates to biochemistry on many levels. Doctors and nurses give drugs to patients to help cure a disease or prevent it. This is due to the fact that when that drug is added to the human system, it alters how other chemicals in the body function, resulting in disease prevention or recovery. Every time a vaccination is injected into a human it prevents disease because biochemically the body already thinks that the disease has been there.

Nutrition is a category of biochemistry that is very important to all life on the planet. All life needs a certain amount of amino acids, carbohydrates, fats, lipids and proteins to survive. These compounds are either consumed or fabricated by the organism to provide cellular structure, energy and other chemicals to survive.

Molecular biology is a topic of biochemistry that is the root of biochemistry. This essentially tells the living system how to function. Typically, this category is just called genetics, but it is the code that is the key to life on the planet. But this code is written in chemical format and structured from the carbohydrates, fats, lipids and proteins provided to the cell.

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