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Biochemistry is the branch of science concerned with the chemistry of biological processes. It attempts to utilize the tools and concepts of chemistry, particularly organic and physical chemistry, for elucidation of living systems. The science has been variously referred to as physiological chemistry and as biological chemistry.

Scope of the biochemist[edit]

Biochemists study such things as the structures and physical properties of biological molecules, including the proteins, the carbohydrates, the lipids, and the nucleic acids; the mechanisms of enzyme action; the chemical regulation of metabolism; the molecular basis of genetic expression; the chemistry of vitamins; chemoluminescence; biological oxidation; and energy utilization in the cell. The study of the chemistry of the immune response offers the possibility of treatment and cure for such diseases as AIDS and lupus.

Biochemistry and other sciences[edit]

Molecular biology, a term first used in 1950, is used to describe the area of research, closely related to and often overlapping biochemistry, conducted by biologists whose approach to and interest in biology are principally at the molecular level of organization. The related field of biophysics brings to biology the techniques and attitudes of the physicist. Cell biology is concerned with the organization and functioning of the individual cell and depends greatly on biochemical techniques. As the study of life forms demonstrated similar or even identical processes occurring in widely divergent species, it has taken the biochemist to unravel the underlying chemical basis for these phenomena.

Timeline of biochemistry discoveries[edit]

The chief discoveries of biochemistry started taking place in the early 1800s.

Date Event
1828 Friedrich Wöhler published a paper about the synthesis of urea, proving that organic compounds can be created artificially.
1833 Anselme Payen made the discovery of the first enzyme, diastase (today called amylase).
1896 Eduard Buchner contributed the first demonstration of a complex biochemical process outside of a cell: alcoholic fermentation in cell extracts of yeast.
1953 James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helical structure of the DNA molecule.
1953 Hans Adolf Krebs discovers the biochemical steps of the Krebs cycle in carbohydrate metabolism.
1957 Daniel Bovet receives the Nobel Prize for the development of antihistamines.
1959 Severo Ochoa and Arthur Kornberg receive the Nobel Prize for discoveries on the synthesis of DNA and RNA.
1970 Hamilton Smith reports the discovery of the first restriction enzyme.
1971 Theodor Diener demonstrates the fundamental differences between viroids and viruses.
1975 Cesar Milsein, Georges Kohler, and Niels Kai Jerne develop the technique for making monoclonal antibodies.
1977 Rosalyn S. Yalow, R.C.I. Guillemin and A.V. Schally receive the Nobel Prize for developing the radioimmunossay (RIA) techniques and using RIA to analyze peptide hormones in the brain.
1984 Cesar Milstein, Georges J.F. Koehler and Niels Jerne receive the Nobel Prize for developing a method for the production of large quantities of monoclonal antibodies.
1985 Joseph L. Goldstein receives the Nobel Prize together with Michael Stuart Brown for their work in elucidating the function of the LDL receptor.
1995 The Food and Drug Administration approves the first protease inhibitor, a major weapon against the progression of AIDS.
1997 The first complete nucleotide sequence of all of the chromosomes of a eukaryote (yeast) is reported.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • L. Stryer, Biochemistry (3d ed. 1988); C. K. Mathews and K. E. van Holde, Biochemistry (1990); G. Zubay, Biochemistry (3d ed. 1993).

External links[edit]