Most students studying biology might have encountered biochemistry as a branch of biology and chemistry. Understanding it in simpler words, it is a combination of both biology & chemistry. But, if we comprehend it under educational, practical, or technical terms, biochemistry is defined as:
A distinct branch of chemistry deals with the study of chemical composition in living organisms.
Many people generally think that studying biochemistry is only helpful while entering a pharmaceutical industry or any lab testing career, which is not true! There are almost ten or above biochemistry-related fields that require the basics to the advanced level of their study.
What is Biochemistry?
A branch of chemistry that handles the chemical composition in living organisms refers to as biochemistry. It is the study of the vital chemical processes occurring within living organisms, hence coping with interactions between living organic cells and their surrounding fluids/matter.
There are numerous biochemistry branches that we will discuss later on, including molecular biology, enzymology, immunology, genetics, etc. A Biochemist can choose many careers like teaching, science, researchers, analytical chemist, and forensic scientist.
Scholarly Definitions of Biochemistry
- Biochemistry is the study of the structure, function, and chemical composition of living beings. It includes studying the human body anatomy of both muscles & bones. In a Biochemistry study, you may understand how cells are formed or what are blood properties.
- This branch of science is the study of the structure, composition, and chemical reactions of substances in living entities. It had emerged as a separate discipline soon when scientists combined biology with physical, inorganic, and organic chemistry. Moreover, they began to study how living things obtain energy from food, the chemical basis of heredity, fundamental changes in infections and diseases, and related issues.
- Furthermore, chemistry deals with the chemical compounds and processes occurring in organisms.
- The chemical characteristics and reactions of a particular living organism or biological substance.
History of Biochemistry
It is the study of life sciences where we talk about living organisms’ chemical structures and compositions. Nowadays, every field of science utilizes biochemistry, such as in plants, animals, and human studies. Most scientists believe that biochemistry started with Anselme Payen, a French Chemist, as he discovered the diastase enzyme in 1833. But, some arguments show that in 1842, Justus von Liebig gave a chemical theory of metabolism.
Contribution of Justus Freiherr von Liebig
Justus Freiherr von Liebig (12 May 1803 – 18 April 1873) was a German chemist who primarily contributed to agricultural and biological chemistry. Besides, he is well-known as a founder of organic chemistry. Liebig was a professor at the University of Giessen, where he devised the modern laboratory-oriented teaching method. This is the reason most scientists regard him as one of the greatest chemistry teachers of all time.
Contributions of Eduard Buchner
In 1987, Eduard Buchner gave the first demonstration on alcoholic fermentation. He was a German Chemist besides a zymologist. Moreover, Eduard Buchner got a noble prize in 1907 for his great contributions.
Contributions of Emil Fisher, George Beadle, and Edward Tatum
Emil Fisher worked on the chemistry of proteins. In addition, George Beadle and Edward Tatum are the two noble prize winners who study the term “one gene produces one enzyme only.” Their work was specifically on fungi.
The golden period in the history of biochemistry is the one where scientists discovered genes. Moreover, it is said that this history was initiated in ancient Greek. Not only this, but the biologists discovered an enzyme’s lock and key model as well. They examined the macromolecules and the micromolecules, hence, were able to talk about the chemical composition of a living organism.
Branches of Biochemistry
Biochemistry, being a vast field of study, has a lot in it. Every beginner, after having basics, further steps into specialization, depending upon his interests. For example, students willing to develop a career as lab technicians choose blood biochemistry and molecular biology. Similarly, different students can continue selecting any sub-branch as per their preferences. Some of the main Branches of Biochemistry are Enzymology, Immunology, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Plant Biochemistry, Animal Biochemistry, Metabolism, Cell Biology, and Medical Biochemistry.
Applications of Biochemistry
People utilize biochemistry everywhere in life these days, such as in medicine, algae, plants, agriculture, nutrition, etc.
Applications in Agriculture
Biochemistry can help enhance plant fertility. An agriculturist applies biochemistry tools to recognize plant conditions and experiment accordingly to improve its fertility.
An experienced biochemist analyzes the reaction between pesticides and crops in the cells. Thus, contributes to raising plants’ growth.
Biochemistry, with its versatility, provides multiple relevant treatments to help control plant diseases. A few of such techniques are exclusion and eradication of diseased plants.
Helps in Animal Husbandry
Animal husbandry is the appropriate cultivation and growth of domestic animals. The experts utilize various biochemistry techniques to diagnose diseases in such animals and control them accordingly.
Biochemistry helps in comprehending the soil condition, its composition, and its deficiency. Therefore, it can specifically work to enhance soil conditions.
Applications in Medical
We mostly go through relevant medical tests when it comes to biochemistry. Let’s ponder over a few!
Biochemistry plays a crucial role in several blood tests, such as serum test is for diagnosing hepatitis. It usually concerns the qualitative and quantitative analysis of liver function. Moreover, a blood glucose level test is for people with diabetes. A urine test checks for ketones, whereas CBC (Complete Blood Count) helps examine a patient’s overall health. All these tests are indirectly related to the field of biochemistry.
Biochemistry also assists in understanding chronic liver diseases or conditions of a patient. PCR test is used for qualitative and quantitative analysis. For the diagnosis of HCC, experts use biochemistry techniques.
Doctors can easily detect pregnancy with the help of biochemistry tests and techniques. An average human body produces gonadotropin hormone, which is checked through a urine test. Furthermore, a particular blood hCG test helps to diagnose early pregnancy. It is the level of human chorionic gonadotropin which rises in early pregnancy.
Kidney Function Test
A simple urine test helps detect kidney issues by checking its pH and if the color of urine changes or not.
Alpha-fetoprotein is a marker. This test is taken in poor liver condition to check whether the patient has a liver disorder or liver cancer.
ESR test is used to check a person’s health condition; if its value is high, there is inflammation in the body and vice versa.
All of the tests mentioned above uses special biochemistry tools, so they fall under medical applications of biochemistry.
Scope of Biochemistry
Students who wish to step into biochemistry as a profession should initially get better grades in F.Sc pre-medical. The next step is to take admission in 4-year bachelor’s program to complete a biochemistry degree. Such students study carbohydrates, enzymes, amino acids, lipids, DNA and RNA, and proteins such as fibrous and globular, etc., as their majors.
A biochemist can efficiently work under government or private sectors. They can even open their private laboratories by collaborating with experienced doctors. Nowadays, biochemistry is highly demanded in research fields, so biochemists can work on relevant hot topics to publish them later on. Furthermore, they can either choose to be scientists or could be members of scientific society.
How Can you Develop a Career in Biochemistry?
A biochemist can choose many careers, depending upon his preferences. We have enlisted some of them below:
- Physician associate
- Biomedical scientist
- Analytical chemist
- Healthcare scientist, clinical biochemistry
- Clinical research associate
- Forensic scientist
- Research scientist (life sciences)
- Scientific laboratory technician
- He can also choose a career as
Health and Safety Inspector
If you are a Ph.D. holder biochemist or have a post-doctorate degree, you can even step into teaching in a medical institute, as per their requirements. Moreover, you can also join other colleges or universities as an assistant professor, holding an MPhil degree. Similarly, there are other designations of health and safety inspectors.
Freshers in the industry can expect from $247 to $411. This pay scale will increase according to your increased experience.
Linking Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
We study macromolecules like DNA, RNA, etc., in molecular biology, so it indirectly relates to biochemistry. The study of biology on a molecular level, including the composition, function, and makeup of biologically essential molecules such as DNA, RNA, and proteins, is called molecular biology.
This field involves many other areas of biology, such as biochemistry and genetics. Molecular Biology is a sub-branch of biology, but it interconnects with genetics and biochemistry as well.
The origin of molecular biology was found in 1930 when some scientists were working on macromolecules. Different techniques are used in molecular biologies, like PCR, recombinant DNA technology, CTAB DNA extraction, gel electrophoresis, northern blotting, Southern blotting, eastern blotting, western blotting, microarrays, and molecular cloning. Many pieces of research have been carried in the molecular labs that consist of portions of molecular biology and biochemistry.
Sana has just completed her MPhil in Microbiology. She loves reading books and the latest discoveries in sciences.