WHO NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT BIOCHEMISTRY?

All living things are created, sustained (and ultimately destroyed) by biochemical processes. Through an understanding of biochemistry it is possible to develop an important and unique insight into life itself. Biochemical knowledge is critical for managing environments and the  living things that exist in those environments, whether plants, animals or even people.

Any job that is concerned with plants, animals, people or environments, will benefit from at least a basic understanding of biochemistry. Biochemistry is not only of concern to Doctors and research scientists, but also professions as diverse as Park rangers, Veterinary Nurses, Landscapers, Farmers, and Fertilizer salesmen. 


 

LEARNING ABOUT BIOCHEMISTRY

 

Chemistry can be complex; and it does scare a lot of students; but a well structured course tackled in a methodical way free of pressure, can make the subject so much easier to grasp. Once you understand the basics, biochemistry can reveal wonderful insights into the living world.

ACS Distance Education has developed an approach to biochemistry which is far more "digestable" than what most other institutions provide. The first subject starts with the basics, uses largely every day language, and relates what you read to real life, by getting you to look at the chemistry of things you encounter in your day to day living.

For more details on Biochemistry courses, click on the course of interest:

Biochemistry I (animals)    Biochemistry I (plants) 

Biochemistry II             Biochemistry III


WHAT IS BIOCHEMISTRY?

Biochemistry is the chemistry of organisms.An organism is anything that is alive, or if not, was once alive (a "dead" organism"). What, then, is the condition we call life? We cannot offer a rigid, precise definition, but we do know that living things are characterized by metabolism, growth, and reproduction. Metabolism is the process by which a body introduces into itself ("ingests") various energy‑rich materials from its environment ("food"), and transforms these materials, with the release of energy, into other substances, some of which are retained by the body ("growth" or "repair") and some eliminated.Reproduction is the process by which one body produces another that is like itself in properties, structure, composition, and function, including metabolism and reproduction.

THE CARBON CYCLE

There are over 90 different chemical elements found naturally on earth, but only about 25 are essential for life. Some are required in small amounts such as cobalt and chromium but the major elements are hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon. Carbon is unusual as it exists naturally in two pure forms, as diamonds and as graphite. But it is much more often found in combination with other chemicals as a compound. In living things carbon forms a variety of very stable chemical compounds. The molecules of some of these compounds have only a few atoms while others have millions. Only carbon atoms can link up in this stable way.

Carbon atoms constantly cycle between the living things and non-living things. The carbon atoms in a piece of coal once formed part of a plant. When coal is burned carbon is released to the atmosphere in the form of gaseous carbon dioxide. This gas is used by plants during photosynthesis and the carbon is passed onto animals. When a person runs they get the energy they need by breaking down carbohydrate glucose during the respiration process. In a similar way, a car gets its energy by breaking down petrol which is also a carbon-containing compound. In this way the carbon cycle continues.

A group of substances called lipids, which includes oils, fats and waxes, are also carbon compounds. Because they do not dissolve in water, living things can use them as storage units, to make membranes and as waterproof layers or insulating.

Proteins are also carbon compounds, probably the most complicated substances other than nucleic acids. The haemoglobin molecule is a protein and binds with oxygen and carries it around in the bloodstream.

Table sugar is made up mainly of a carbon compound called sucrose, which belongs to the carbohydrate group. Most living things use carbohydrates to build their cell walls. Plants store energy in the form of sucrose and starch. A sucrose molecule is made up of two rings of carbon atoms and dissolves easily. The two rings are glucose and fructose. Both are used in respiration. Other carbohydrates such as sugar and cellulose have molecules with hundreds of rings and do dissolve easily.