Exploring the realms of a living and dead cell

February, 2010

“Organic Chemistry is the study of molecules and Biochemistry is the study of molecules that crawl”      Mike Adam

Molecules are lifeless, but in appropriate complexity and number, they compose living systems which are different from the inanimate world because they have certain extraordinary properties. This note is designed to assist students of Molecular Biology, Microbiology and other related fields, appreciate first, the Molecular Logic of Life and subsequently the Biochemistry of a living cell as an entity-and a dead cell too. As a student of Molecular Biology myself, I believe the knowledge of the various biochemical processes that take place in a single cell, will form the basis of understanding life itself as a whole and if, at the end of this essay, I succeed in provoking the reader’s intellect and inspiring him/her to strive to understand the scientific basis of life better, then the objective of this work is achieved. Although this is a lecture note meant for degree students, it can be read by any one curious about life at molecular level. I am aware of the many questions (or controversies) an exposition such as this, may lead to. This is inevitable when, as students of natural sciences, we discuss ideas that may seemingly appear to question our individual ideals such as religious beliefs or histories. While I try as much as possible to make this note a didactic material in substance and diction, I have deliberately touched, albeit subtly, some philosophical questions in order to whet the reader’s appetite. But the note should be regarded as just that: a note, written by a student of Biochemistry.  It is presented in the form of a journey that starts from life and ends in death. The first part introduces the reader to the concepts of the origin and essence of life, reduced to cellular level. Exploration of the realms of unicellular and multicellular organisms is followed by a few words on evolution of cells. Subsequent part describes the major cell components. Special emphasis is given to transport within and around the cell. This is followed by a description of the common methods employed in Biochemistry in the isolation of major components in the cell. The journey ends by taking a look at how cells die and the dramatization of the molecular events leading to death.  This writer claims no credit for the texts and figures in this essay. Indeed, a good part of the ideas contained herein, are from Principles of Biochemistry by Nelson and Cox and Biochemistry by Garret and Grisham. The real source of inspiration however, is a book titled “What is life?” Indeed we must start this by asking the eternal question; “What is life?”. Continue reading here

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