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Chemistry of Life


We will begin Chemistry with a brief review of the structure of atoms.  We will then discuss how atoms are bonded together to form compounds and molecules using ionic and covalent bonds. 

Bonds can be created or broken.  Each time this happens, energy is involved (it is either released, or utilized).  Chemical reactions are actually the making and breaking of bonds.  Metabolism is the term used to describe all of the chemical reactions in an organism.

Chemical reactions always involve energy.  The more energy that is required for a reaction, the less likely that reaction is to happen (at least in an organism).  Since millions of chemical reactions are required 24/7 so that organisms don't die, it is important that we use the least amount of energy possible to make these reactions happen.  Catalysts reduce the amount of energy required for a reaction to occur (activation energy).  Biological catalysts are often a type of protein called an enzyme.

In all living things, chemical reactions within the cell take place in an aqueous (water filled) environment. Most of water's biological functions  are a result of its chemical structure.  Water is a polar molecule that participates in hydrogen bonding, can act as a solvent, and demonstrates both cohesion (sticking together of water molecules) and adhesion (sticking to a surface or molecule that is not water)

Acidity and alkalinity are both used to describe pH (a measure of the concentration of Hydrogen ions) in a solution. Control of pH is important for living systems. In order to control pH, many organ systems within the body contain buffers (chemical substances that can "neutralize" or 'bring back to a normal point" an environment that has become too basic or acidic.  Since your body has different "optimal pHs" at different points within your body, complex buffering systems maintain the proper pH values of a normal healthy body.

Roots to Remember

hydro - means water
-lysis - means to break apart
-mer - means subunit
macro - means large.
micro - means small.
mono - means one.
-phillic means loving.
-phobic means fearing.
poly - means many.
Subpages (1): DNA
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