Biochemistry is the scientific study concerned chiefly with the chemistry of biological processes; it attempts to utilize the tools and concepts of chemistry, particularly organic and physical chemistry, to investigate living organisms. The science has been variously referred to as physiological chemistry and as biological chemistry.
Scope of the Biochemist
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
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
Biochemistry took shape since the early 1800's, with discoveries accelerating in the mid 20th century.
|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 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.|
|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 is reported (yeast).|
- L. Stryer, Biochemistry (3d ed. 1988); C. K. Mathews and K. E. van Holde, Biochemistry (1990); G. Zubay, Biochemistry (3d ed. 1993).