What Is Biochemistry, and What Are Its Importance?

Joseph Kanu
Posted Joseph Kanu January 24, 2023
Updated 2023/01/24 at 12:50 PM
12 Min Read
What Is Biochemistry?
What Is Biochemistry?

Hello, do you want to know exactly what biochemistry is? If yes, this article is for you!

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The Oxford English dictionary simply defines biochemistry as the chemical characteristics of a particular living organism, and as you read on you would find a more detailed meaning of biochemistry, its origin, and other relevant shreds of information.

Definition Of Biochemistry

Biochemistry as a course is solely the study of the chemical substances and processes that occur in all living things, including plants and animals and microorganisms, and the changes they undergo during development and life.

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Chemical changes within the organism, whether degradation of substances, generally to build up the required energy, or to gain complex molecules required for life processes are generally referred to as “metabolism”. 

Biochemistry is almost close to a couple of older terms, physiological chemistry, and biological chemistry. Some aspects of biochemistry that deal with the chemistry and function of very large molecules like proteins and nucleic acids are usually grouped under the term “molecular biology”.

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Since 1900, biochemistry has been known as a young science, and its early history is a part of the early history of physiology and chemistry.

Just before we proceed, we would explain some major terms mentioned here which are Protein, Nucleic acids, Metabolism, and Chemistry.

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What Is Protein?

Protein is one of the six classes found all over the body, especially in muscles, bones, skin, hair, and almost all other body parts or tissue. 

Protein is a part of the enzymes that enable many chemical reactions and the hemoglobin that transports oxygen in the human blood. Not less than 10,000 different proteins make humans what they are and retain their nature as well that way.

Nucleic Acids

Nucleic acids, just like other acids including deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA), possess genetic information which is usually read in cells to make the RNA and proteins through which living things function.

What Is Metabolism?

In a very simple and clear term, metabolism can be simply defined as the chemical changes that take place in a cell or an organism which aids in building up the required energy and the materials cells and organisms need to grow, reproduce, and live healthily.

What Is Chemistry?

Chemistry as a “course” is the branch of science that focuses on the properties, composition, and structure of elements and compounds, how they can change, and the energy that is released or absorbed when after the change. Chemistry as a term possibly has roots in either ancient Egypt or Greece. 

History Of Biochemistry

The history of biochemistry is in connection with the ancient Greeks who took a special interest in the composition and processes of life. The other part of the history is that biochemistry as a specific scientific field began around the beginning part of the  19th century.

Some scientists and scholars argued that biochemistry began after the first enzyme, diastase 

(presently known as amylase), was discovered by Anselme Payen, in 1833.

Some other scholars and researchers have considered the first demonstration of a complex biochemical process of alcoholic fermentation in cell-free extracts by Eduard Buchner to be when biochemistry began.

Still, on when biochemistry began, some have also made references to Justus von Liebig’s influential work from 1842, Animal chemistry, or, Organic chemistry in its applications to physiology and pathology, which pointed out a chemical theory of metabolism.

Another area people point at is the 18th-century studies carried out by Antoine Lavoisie on fermentation and respiration.

Biochemistry as a term was derived from a combination of  “bio” which means ‘life’, and “chemistry”, and it first found its way into English in 1848.

In 1877, Felix Hoppe-Seyler made use of the term “Biochemie” (German) in the foreword to the first issue of Zeitschrift für Physiologische Chemie (Journal of Physiological Chemistry) as a synonym for physiological chemistry.

Felix Hoppe-Seyler argued for the setting up of institutes dedicate to biochemistry studies. Still, however, a good number of sources cite Carl Neuberg, a German chemist as one who coined the term Biochemistry for the new discipline in 1903, while some cite Franz Hofmeister.

Under the history of chemistry, we made mention of a couple of major terms such as enzyme and diastase and we’re going to explain them to you in simple terms.

What Is An Enzyme?

An enzyme in very simple terms is a biological catalyst and is almost usually a protein that speeds up the rate of a particular chemical reaction in the cell which is usually not destroyed or changed during the reaction.

Examples of enzymes include the following:

  • Lipases: Lipases are a group of enzymes that aids the digestion of fats in the gut.
  • Amylase: Amylase functions well in the saliva, it helps in changing starches into sugars.
  • Maltase: This very group of enzymes also functions in the saliva just like the amylase, it breaks the sugar maltose and converts them into glucose.
  • Trypsin: This group of enzymes, trypsin helps in breaking proteins down and turns them into amino acids in the small intestine.

Enzymes’ functions rightly include detoxification, muscle building, and breaking down food particles during digestion. Again, enzymes accelerate the speed of a chemical reaction to support life, and also help in performing important functions of the human body.

What Is Diastase? 

We have said enzymes specifically maltase breaks sugar maltose and turns them into glucose,  in this case, diastase is any one of a group of enzymes that helps in the breakdown of starch into maltose.

Diastase comprises alpha amylase, beta amylase, limit dextrinase, alpha-glucosidase, and phosphorylase. Diastase can be found in human saliva.

Importance Of Biochemistry, And Why It Should Be Considered As A Field Of Study

Biochemistry makes use of a combination of biology and chemistry to study the living matter and also powers scientific and medical discovery in disciplines like pharmaceuticals, forensics, and nutrition. 

Through biochemistry, you would have a clear and in-depth study of chemical reactions at a molecular level to better understand the world and develop new avenues to harness all of these.

The few reasons biochemistry can be considered a field of study are the following:

1. Specialization and Focus 

Biochemistry as a field or course is flexible and its application to many fields and specialisms is very possible, whether one wants to work in industry or further in education and research in his or her chosen discipline. 

Some institution like the University of Strathclyde as a way of adding further flexibility to biochemistry makes it very easy for biochemistry with other biomolecular science courses to be combined so one can develop his or her interests and specialism as part of a biochemistry degree. 

2. Many Career opportunities

Biochemistry can lead to a wide range of related careers, so it is the perfect choice for one who is not sure of what his or her future looks like at the moment, and one could work in a research laboratory, product development, healthcare, or forensics among several other disciplines. 

If one chooses biochemistry as a field of study, he or she is studying the foundations of life so the options are endless. 

3. Transferable skills

For one to successfully gain employment just immediately after graduation, he or she needs more than a degree, in other words, he or she needs some transferable skills that can be related to the role being applied for.

With the study of biochemistry, one will learn how to solve problems, how to analyze data, process creation and manage projects, and other vital skills in any career one choose. 

With all the transferable skills obtained through the study of biochemistry, one can apply for a broader range of jobs immediately after he or she is ready to begin job hunting. 

Degree holders in Biochemistry do not just work in labs, many go as far as working in finance, business, or education to mention just a few.

4. Possible Innovations

Taking biochemistry as a field of study is exactly equated to finding new avenues to look at how systems work and working with new ideas, which is indeed a valuable skill both in life and work that will elevate one as a fantastic job candidate. 

Studying biochemistry makes one learn to see things from a new perspective which can lead to beautiful opportunities. Again, the process of testing theories will prepare one to improve in his or her chosen field, be it medical drug development, genome sequencing, food, and agricultural changes, or something entirely different.

5. Understand the molecular basis of life

With the many challenges facing the world today, an understanding of how life and the systems within it exist could be key to finding solutions. Choosing biochemistry will give you the tools to better understand the world and how you can improve it.

Conclusion

With all the various details and terminologies pointed out here and explained appropriately, we believe this article has been able to satisfy your intent and that you have learned a lot concerning what biochemistry is, why it is important and why one should consider it as a field of study. 

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