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This content is taken from the UEA (University of East Anglia) & Biochemical Society's online course, Biochemistry: the Molecules of Life. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 0 secondsBiology is ultimately the study of life. And life in all its forms can be characterised by several key biological processes, including the ability to move, to grow, to reproduce, and to sense changes that are happening in the world around us. Life is exceptionally varied and each type of living organism, from simple bacteria to man, has evolved to take advantage of different chemical pathways to achieve these processes.

Skip to 0 minutes and 30 secondsAs part of their studies biologists try to understand these pathways: how do living things get energy from food; what processes go wrong in disease; and how animals can recognise colour, touch and taste. To understand how cells work we have to look inside them. Biochemists study the amazing variety of molecules that work together to form cells. We want to understand how each molecule is formed and how they interact with each other to create and sustain life. We know that whether an organism lives or dies is determined by these biological processes and we need to keep researching these critical processes to learn and know more about how they work.

Skip to 1 minute and 18 secondsUnderstanding chemistry is essentially an understanding of the makeup of the world around us.

Skip to 1 minute and 22 secondsChemists study matter: how atoms connect through chemical bonds to form molecular structures; how these structures determine the molecule's properties and behaviour, and what chemical reactions it can undergo. Molecules that make up living and non-living things reveal an endless diversity, from the simple inorganic water molecule to large and complex organic macro- molecules, such as proteins. Defining the chemical composition of these molecules allows us to predict their properties and how their chemical behavior changes with regard to their environment, for example, through temperature or pressure differences. Physical chemistry can describe natural chemical reactions which break molecules down into their constituent atoms and how these atoms can then react to form new substances with unique structures and properties.

Skip to 2 minutes and 12 secondsChemistry is at the heart of the production of cleaner fuels, the fabrication of new, improved materials, and the design and development of new drugs. So you will not be surprised to see chemical principles have become equally important in describing biological systems. By combining different laboratory techniques used by chemists and biologists. we can work out the different roles of the molecules we find in biological environments. A key role for biochemists like me is to discover the amazing structures of the many different structures that make up cells.

Skip to 2 minutes and 49 secondsAs biochemists we understand that once we know the structure of molecules we can begin to define their functions, predict how they are formed and then this lets us figure out who these will react and how the reactions can sustain or harm life.

Skip to 3 minutes and 8 secondsMany key disciplines within chemistry can contribute to an understanding of how biological processes take place. The most important molecules of life such as DNA, proteins, and carbohydrates, are composed of carbon-based building blocks, so an appreciation of organic chemistry aids the understanding of their structure, formation and reactions. The roles of various inorganic molecules within the body are of equal importance. Calcium ions are essential for muscle contraction, while compounds containing iron and sulphur atoms are vital for respiration. Studies of how the various molecules interact and combine to achieve cellular function have been aided greatly by many physical chemistry techniques.

Skip to 4 minutes and 0 secondsAs you will see throughout this course the combination of biological and chemical methods in research has made huge strides in advancing biotechnology, and providing solutions to a long list of biological challenges, from developing new, effective drugs for the treatment of diseases to creating new tools for diagnostics, developing multivitamins and minerals to promote good nutrition and producing chemicals that maximise the growth and yield of crops in agriculture.

Welcome to "Biochemistry: The Molecules of Life"

Welcome to “Biochemistry: the Molecules of Life” from Professor Laura Bowater of Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, and the course leaders, Dr Richard Bowater and Dr Fraser MacMillan.

Richard Bowater is based in the School of Biological Sciences and Fraser MacMillan in the School of Chemistry at the University of East Anglia, in Norwich, United Kingdom.

This video highlights the important points that will be discussed within this course, introducing different opinions about the subject of biochemistry.

Technical terms in simplified form

The terms about job titles relate to those that are used widely in UK universities. The title given to most staff when they start to teach university students is “Lecturer”. As the staff member becomes more experienced and takes on more responsibility their title changes, typically going to “Senior Lecturer”, then “Reader” and, sometimes finally, “Professor”. In many universities the title “Chair” is also used to describe the positions of Professorships.

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This video is from the free online course:

Biochemistry: the Molecules of Life

UEA (University of East Anglia)