Chemistry and life

Life would be impossible without chemistry! The study of the chemistry of life is called biochemistry, but it is not merely a dry chemical subject. All the reactions that go on inside our bodies are normal chemical reactions, usually speeded up by enzymes that are specific proteins.

Apart from the study of the main biological components: proteins, carbohydrates, fats and nucleic acids, biochemistry has some fascinating stories to tell. The red color of blood results from hemoglobin, made up of a protein globin component and a red heme group.

The first genetic disease that was explained was sickle cell anemia by Linus Pauling, that results from a single mutation in the synthesis of the globin portion of hemoglobin. The madness of King George III, that partly resulted in the independence of the USA, was a case of porphyria, a genetic disease in which one gene in the pathway of the heme (porphyrin) component of hemoglobin goes awry due to a single mutation in DNA.

Few people know that peanut butter, fed to millions of children, contains one of the most toxic substances known to man, aflatoxin. Dr. Cohen will explain how this was discovered and other fascinating stories of the chemistry of life.

To see the powerpoint presentation of my recent lecture on “Chemistry and life” at the AACI Netanya (6/2/11) – click on the attachment (use the arrows on your computer to advance or reverse, use Esc to exit)

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