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Biochemistry, sometimes called biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes in living organisms, including, but not limited to, living matter. Biochemistry governs all living organisms and living processes. By controlling information flow through biochemical signaling and the flow of chemical energy through metabolism, biochemical processes give rise to the incredible complexity of life. Much of biochemistry deals with the structures and functions of cellular components such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids and other biomolecules —although increasingly processes rather than individual molecules are the main focus. Over the last 40 years biochemistry has become so successful at explaining living processes that now almost all areas of the life sciences from botany to medicine are engaged in biochemical research. Today the main focus of pure biochemistry is in understanding how biological molecules give rise to the processes that occur within living cells, which in turn relates greatly to the study and understanding of whole organisms.
Among the vast number of different biomolecules, many are complex and large molecules (called biopolymers), which are composed of similar repeating subunits (called monomers). Each class of polymeric biomolecule has a different set of subunit types. For example, a protein is a polymer whose subunits are selected from a set of 20 or more amino acids. Biochemistry studies the chemical properties of important biological molecules, like proteins, and in particular the chemistry of enzyme-catalyzed reactions.
The biochemistry of cell metabolism and the endocrine system has been extensively described. Other areas of biochemistry include the genetic code (DNA, RNA), protein synthesis, cell membrane transport, and signal transduction.
History of biochemistry
It once was generally believed that life and its materials had some essential property or substance distinct from any found in non-living matter, and it was thought that only living beings could produce the molecules of life. Then, in 1828, Friedrich Wöhler published a paper on the synthesis of urea, proving that organic compounds can be created artificially.
The dawn of biochemistry may have been the discovery of the first enzyme, diastase (today called amylase), in 1833 by Anselme Payen. Eduard Buchner contributed the first demonstration of a complex biochemical process outside of a cell in 1896: alcoholic fermentation in cell extracts of yeast. Although the term “biochemistry” seems to have been first used in 1882, it is generally accepted that the formal coinage of biochemistry occurred in 1903 by Carl Neuberg, a German chemist. Previous to this time, this area would have been referred to as physiological chemistry. Since then, biochemistry has advanced, especially since the mid-20th century, with the development of new techniques such as chromatography, X-ray diffraction, dual polarisation interferometry, NMR spectroscopy, radioisotopic labeling, electron microscopy, and molecular dynamics simulations. These techniques allowed for the discovery and detailed analysis of many molecules and metabolic pathways of the cell, such as glycolysis and the Krebs cycle (citric acid cycle).
Another significant historic event in biochemistry is the discovery of the gene and its role in the transfer of information in the cell. This part of biochemistry is often called molecular biology. In the 1950s, James D. Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin, and Maurice Wilkins were instrumental in solving DNA structure and suggesting its relationship with genetic transfer of information. In 1958, George Beadle and Edward Tatum received the Nobel Prize for work in fungi showing that one gene produces one enzyme. In 1988, Colin Pitchfork was the first person convicted of murder with DNA evidence, which led to growth of forensic