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  Biochemistry is the study of biological processes in terms of chemical interactions between the substances which make up living organisms. The chemical processes which occur within the body come under the general heading of metabolism, and are mediated by biological catalysts called enzymes. Enzymes are protein molecules and as such are gene products, so metabolism is under genetic control. The term biochemistry originated around the end of the 19th century, but the subject has its roots in early chemistry. The pioneering 18th-century French chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier showed that there was a quantitative similarity between the respiration of living organisms and chemical oxidation. Then Jan Ingenhousz, also in the 18th century, showed that plants use sunlight to drive photosynthesis, a reaction which is the reverse of respiration. The development of structural organic chemistry in the 19th century paved the way for scientists to study first the important biological molecules (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, etc.) and their synthesis (anabolism) and degradation (catabolism) and later to study metabolic processes and their control. Modern biochemistry dominates many areas of biology, such as nutrition and genetics, principally because a complete understanding of all metabolic events involved in growth, reproduction and heredity should lead to a complete understanding of life itself, at least in mechanistic terms. RB

See also biophysics; biopoiesis; cytology; mechanism; molecular biology.Further reading Robert Murray, Biochemistry.



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