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Everyday biochemistry

People who can relate biochemistry to everyday life.
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You may never have realised it, but you encounter products and services made possible by biochemistry on a day-to-day basis. Biochemistry is a broad subject, overlapping with many other disciplines. It is this breadth that gives our subject the potential to improve many aspects of our lives. For example, biochemists are at the forefront of research into addressing environmental degradation, and advanced biochemical technologies are likely to play a crucial role in our efforts to achieve a sustainable means of living. In the second week of this course, we will introduce some key examples of current biochemical studies that aim to increase the efficiency of how we generate and use energy.
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Biochemical advances have the potential to impact climate change, now recognised as a challenge facing society worldwide. Using biochemical knowledge to identify solutions, such as algal biofuels, carbon sequestration, and more efficient industrial processes, can help protect the environment and open up many new economic opportunities. Biochemical research can also be used to understand the basis of biological processes. Cells have evolved with very elegant mechanisms for harnessing energy and converting it into a form that can be used. By understanding these processes, we can design and develop advanced biotechnology products that generate novel types of bioenergy, such as biological photovoltaics.
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In addition to carrying out the metabolic processes that make the essential components of life, such as amino acids, carbohydrates, and nucleotides, some cells also have unique metabolic pathways that produce other chemicals. These chemicals are known as natural products. By identifying natural products that are essential for or enhance human health, biochemical research has also been fundamental in increasing public understanding of the importance of good nutrition. The understanding and treatment of human disease also relies on the work of biochemists. You might already have learnt about some antibiotics, such as penicillin which has saved millions of lives.
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However, the emerging problem of antibiotic resistance presents a very serious challenge to healthcare worldwide, meaning that biochemical research into identifying novel natural products with antibacterial properties is still essential. Biochemists have been involved in the development of many products and processes we use every day. These include the discovery and improvement of drugs used in medicine, compounds that are used in (bio)chemical industries, such as cleaning products and detergents, and DNA recombinant technology, which can be used to make important molecules such as insulin and food additives.
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Biochemical and molecular knowledge also greatly assists the quantity and quality of food production, through improved agrochemicals, development of crops with enhanced resistance to pests and disease, and in the preparation of foods that improve general human health, such as probiotics and antioxidants. As you progress in this course and continue with your studies you will encounter many other examples of how biochemistry continues to address challenges faced by society worldwide, and appreciate how it can improve and influence many aspects of our lives.

You may never have realised it, but biochemistry is being applied to address a huge variety of problems on a day to day basis.

In this video Jenny and Laura highlight some of today’s challenges to society and we will explore some of these problems and potential biochemical solutions during the rest of this course.

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Biochemistry: the Molecules of Life

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