Chemistry Magazine ONE PAGE Summary

summarize one of the stories about the biomolecule you find most interesting in this special magazine from the National Institutes of Health entitled “The Chemistry of Health”. You must describe the article in your own words. Anything you take from the original story must be cited properly. Also cite any other references you use.ONE PAGE SUMMARY
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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
Much of the science described in The Chemistry of Health has been funded
through U.S. tax dollars invested in biomedical research projects at universities.
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which funded most of these
research projects, is unique among the components of the National Institutes of
Health in that its main goal is to promote basic biomedical research that at first
may not be linked to any particular body part or disease. In time, however, these
scientific studies on the most fundamental of life’s processes — what goes on
inside and between cells — can shed light on important health issues, including
what causes certain diseases and how to treat them safely and effectively.
Written by Alison Davis under contract HHSN263200800496P
Produced by the Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
To learn more about NIGMS or to order free
educational resources about science and medicine,
visit http://www.nigms.nih.gov.
1
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On the Cover
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Ocean
Foxglove
Rainforest
Cone snail, Kerry Matz
Blood vial
Virginia Cornish, Virginia Cornish
Head scan
Adrenergic receptor
Ram Sasisekharan, L. Barry Hetherington
Tiny points of light, Sandra Rosenthal,
James McBride, Stephen Pennycook
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Lola Eniola-Adefeso, Scott Galvin
Plant cells
Periodic table
Medications
GFP froglet, Jonathan Slack
Multi-well plate
Nano rainbow, Shuming Nie
Hen egg lysozyme crystals, Alex McPherson
Golden gene chips, Hao Yan, Yonggang Ke
Plant cells
Disease…
Pollution…
Hunger…
Global warming…
Did you realize that chemistry plays a key role in helping us solve some of
the most serious problems facing our world today?
Chemists want to know. They want to find the building blocks of the chemical
universe — the molecules that form materials, living cells and whole organisms.
Chemists want to create. They want to make useful substances, including
some that don’t even exist in the natural world.
Many chemists are medical explorers looking for new ways to maintain and
improve our health. Others are helping to preserve our planet by developing
safe, cheap and efficient ways to make the materials we use every day.
Explore more @ http://www.nigms.nih.gov/ChemHealthWeb
• Meet Today’s Chemists
• Get a Free Poster
• Play Interactive Games and Solve Puzzles
• Check Out Our Molecule Gallery
2
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
Chemists want to know about
matter and its properties — the
density, acidity, size and shape
of molecules. Biologists want
to understand living things and
how they interact with their
environment.
And chemistry and biology are
more connected than you might think.
Using knowledge about atoms,
forces and molecules, chemists
learn about unfamiliar substances,
but they also learn about organisms
and body processes.
One of the most amazing
triumphs of the human body is the
fact that all we really need to do to
keep it running is to eat and sleep.
The rest seems to take care of itself.
But a lot of chemical reactions are
going on 24/7 to make this happen.
Metabolic factories recycle the
components of digestion back into
basic building blocks from which
our tissues and organs are built.
Using proteins, the genetic
material DNA and RNA, sugars
and fats, chemical reactions let
a sprained ankle heal properly,
make our hair and fingernails grow
a little bit every day and give us
energy to text our friends or ace a
geometry test.
The main players in metabolism
are enzymes, molecules that speed
up the chemical reactions in our
bodies. Because they make reactions
go faster than they would on
their own, enzymes are biological
catalysts.
Consider this: Without the help
of enzymes, the conversion of
nutrients and minerals into usable
biological molecules such as pro­
teins, DNA and RNA might take
weeks, even years! Enzymes are
essential to life, since our bodies
ANDY COMBS
Actions & Reactions
Millions of chemical reactions in our bodies help us stay active.
The main players in metabolism are enzymes, molecules that
speed up the chemical reactions in our bodies.
cannot afford to wait that long to
receive the important products of
chemical reactions.
In speeding up reactions, enzymes
act like the accelerator pedal of a car.
But they also play the role of match­
maker, bringing together starting
materials (substrates or reactants)
and converting them into finished
materials (products).
Most enzymes reside inside cells.
If cells get damaged, they break
apart and spill their contents into
neighboring body fluids, like blood.
That is why higher-than-normal levels
of enzymes in blood—revealed in
a simple blood test — can signify
trouble in tissues or organs where
those cells normally live.
When enzymes are not working
properly, they can cause disease.
For example, cancer can develop
when the enzymes that copy DNA
make mistakes. These errors can
produce a misspelled gene that
makes a defective protein or no
protein at all. If that protein is the
one that keeps a set of cells from
multiplying out of control, you can
imagine how its absence could
bring about serious problems.
Inside the body, enzymes are
never lonely. They link together,
forming vibrant networks and path­
ways. And so our metabolism is
really just a collection of enzymecatalyzed reactions that build and
break down organic molecules in
food, producing or consuming
energy in the process. But to be
effective, the reactions need to work
together in a coordinated way.
The chemical reactions of metab­
olism occur over and over again.
http://www.nigms.nih.gov/ChemHealthWeb
Much like a cascade of dominoes,
the product of one chemical reaction
becomes the substrate for another.
By understanding the language of
the body’s metabolic communication
systems, scientists can find ways to
patch the circuits when they become
broken from injury and disease.
One secret to an enzyme’s suc­
cess is its three-dimensional shape.
An enzyme is shaped so that it
can hug its substrate tightly. This
molecular embrace triggers chemical
changes, shuffling attractive forces
and producing new molecules.
Only enzymes that have an exact
fit with their substrates do a
decent job of speeding up
chemical reactions.
Many proteins need help from
one or more other proteins to
perform their jobs well. Proteins
that interact often change their
shape as a result of the encounter.
The differently shaped protein is
better able to capture its substrate
and make a chemical reaction
happen. Sort of like rearranging
seats in a room to accommodate
more guests, the reshaping of
proteins can make extra space for
substrates and products to fit.
In addition to proteins, other
helper molecules called cofactors
are necessary ingredients for many
enzyme reactions. Folic acid, a
B vitamin, is one of them.
Researchers have known for
decades that folic acid can protect
against certain birth defects— such
as spina bifida—that develop during
the first few weeks after conception.
For this reason, the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration recommends
3
Folic acid helps
enzymes and
substrates get
together.
that every woman of childbearing age
supplement her diet with 400 micro­
grams of this vitamin.
Folic acid does its good deeds
by improving the fit between various
enzymes and their substrates. One
of these enzymes speeds up the
conversion of a potentially harmful
molecule called homocysteine to
methionine, a nontoxic amino acid
that the body needs. Thus, folic acid
lowers blood levels of homocysteine,
which in excess is a risk factor for
heart attacks and strokes.
Meet…
Virginia Cornish
CHEMICAL BIOLOGIST, New York City
Cornish uses genetic engineering methods to mix
and match natural substances in new ways.
BORN IN:
Savannah, Georgia
FAVORITE KIND OF MUSIC:
College music stations that
play everything
“Chemistry is my favorite science because it’s
rooted in creativity—inventing new
molecules with unanticipated functions.”
BEST THING TO DO ON A SNOW DAY:
Go sledding with my young kids
JOB SITE:
—Virginia Cornish
Columbia University
FAVORITE SUBJECTS IN HIGH SCHOOL:
Chemistry and poetry
Explore more @ http://www.nigms.nih.gov/ChemHealthWeb
4
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
You Are What You Eat!
Lipids and carbohydrates are
the scientific names for fats and
sugars. These natural substances
do a lot to keep us healthy. Along
with giving us energy, they help
cells move around the body and
communicate.
F AT S
Eating healthy means that you need
to be careful about the amount of fat
in your diet. But a certain amount of
fat is really necessary: All humans
need lipids, called essential fatty
acids, from food because our bodies
can’t make them from scratch. Some
body fat is also necessary as insu­
lation to prevent heat loss and to
protect vital organs from the strain
of routine activities.
Lipids in adipose tissue (fat cells)
are a major form of energy storage
in animals and people. The “fatsoluble” vitamins (A, D, E and K) are
essential nutrients stored in the liver
and in fatty tissues. Triglycerides,
another type of lipid, are especially
suited for stockpiling energy because
of their high caloric content. When
we need energy, our bodies use
enzymes called lipases to break
down stored triglycerides into smaller
pieces that participate directly
in metabolism.
The mitochondria in our cells
ultimately create energy from these
reactions by generating adenosine
triphosphate, or ATP, the main cur­
rency of metabolism.
In addition to providing and
storing energy, lipids do many other
things. They act as messengers,
helping proteins come together in
a lock-and-key fashion. They also
start chemical reactions that help
control growth, immune function,
reproduction and other aspects of
basic metabolism.
Outside the Cell
Glycoprotein
Glycolipid
Carbohydrate
Phospholipid
Plasma
membrane
Cholesterol
Protein
Inside the Cell
The plasma membrane is a perfect example of the rule that oil and water don’t mix.
Membranes are a hallmark of how organisms evolved
the ability to multitask.
The lipid molecule cholesterol
is a key part of the plasma mem­
brane, a coating that wraps around
every cell in the human body.
Although it does act as a protec­
tive barrier, the plasma membrane
is less like a rigid wall and more
like a pliable blanket. In addition to
lipids, the plasma membrane con­
tains sugars that stick out from its
surface and proteins that thread
through it.
It is an orderly arrangement
of ball-and-stick molecules called
glycolipids (lipid chains with sugars
attached) and phospholipids
(lipids marked with cellular tags
called phosphates).
When aligned “tail-to-tail,” these
fat-containing molecular assemblies
resemble a double array of match­
sticks lined up perfectly end-to-end.
The membrane forms more or
less automatically when the lipid
end of each glycolipid or phospho­
lipid matchstick is attracted to oily
substances: other lipids. The other
matchstick end, containing a sugar
or phosphate molecule, drifts natu­
rally toward the watery environment
typical of the areas inside or
between cells.
Membranes are a hallmark of
how organisms evolved the ability
to multitask. Membranes allow cells
to keep proteins and other mole­
cules in different compartments so
that more than one set of reactions
can occur at the same time.
In addition to the plasma mem­
branes around cells, organelles
inside cells are wrapped by similar,
lipid-containing membranes that
encase specialized contents.
http://www.nigms.nih.gov/ChemHealthWeb
Amino acids link head-to-tail to
make proteins.
YH
ET
HE R INGTO N
have a tough time forcing them to
connect one way instead of another.
One reason chemists want to
make sugars from scratch is to
design vaccines that target the
surfaces of bacteria and viruses.
Sugars attached to proteins, called
glycoproteins, are an important part
of cell membranes. Jutting out from
the surface of nearly all cells, these
sugary signposts are a cell’s identifi­
cation. They are sort of like cellular
address labels.
Also called glycans, these
branched molecules serve as
specialized receptors that act
as docking stations for proteins
on other cells. Each organ and
BIOENGINEER, Cambridge, Massachusetts
tissue has its own special
glycans, which grant access
Sasisekharan researches carbohydrates —
only to those molecules
indispensable
natural molecules used by
that know the proper
all
life
forms.
molecular “code.”
Every type of virus we
encounter can only grip a
certain set of glycans with
precisely the right connections at their tips. In this
manner, the types of gly­
cans that a virus latches
onto can determine how
—Ram Sasisekharan
it will make you sick. For
example, some viruses
prefer glycans in the
BORN IN: Chennai, India
lungs, while others like
FAVORITE FOOD: Pasta
the intestines or the throat.
BA
RR
In chemistry, a polymer is a sub­
stance that contains repeating units:
Polyester and many plastics are
examples of synthetic polymers.
Proteins, nucleic acids and carbo­
hydrates are natural “biopolymers”
that consist of chains of amino acids,
DNA, RNA or sugar molecules.
How do our bodies make bio­
polymers? You guessed it: enzymes.
Scientists can also make some
biopolymers in the lab. DNA, RNA
and proteins are fairly simple to
construct—so simple that scientists
today routinely synthesize thousands
of different versions at once on
wafer-like chips similar in size to
those used in computers.
But complex carbohydrates —
chains of sugars—are a different story.
Why is making sugar chains so
hard? The answer lies in their funda­
mental structure.
Proteins are strings of amino
acids that can only fit together one
way, head-to-tail. In contrast, long,
branched chains of sugars called
oligosaccharides can fit together in
dozens of different ways. Chemists
L.
S U G A R S
5
Meet…
Ram
Sasisekharan
“I volunteer to teach in Asia
every summer. I enjoy sharing
my experiences with the next
generation of world health
sleuths!”
When I was young, I always
imagined I’d be a medical doctor
PLAN A:
MIT, Singapore, Bangkok …
anywhere the need arises
JOB SITE:
Jogging,
spending time with family, enjoying
and creating art, and being outdoors
FAVORITE WEEKEND PASTIMES:
Simple sugars link in many orientations
to make oligosaccharides.
Explore more @ http://www.nigms.nih.gov/ChemHealthWeb
6
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
Cool Tools
Chemists are masters of materials,
and they often work in the world
of the very small. Using tools made
from the building blocks of life,
chemists can spy on the move­
ments of single molecules and
make miniature devices that pick
up trace levels of contaminants in
food and the environment.
The space between two carbon
atoms within a molecule is about
one-tenth of a nanometer. The DNA
double helix has a diameter of about
two nanometers. The smallest bac­
teria, on the other hand, are much
bigger: a few hundred nanometers
in length.
A nanometer is one-billionth
the length of a meter — or about
the circumference of a marble in
comparison to that of the Earth!
And nanotechnology is the study
of the control of matter on an atomic
and molecular scale. Some say it is
chemistry by a different name.
Fittingly, some entire modern
chemistry “labs” are extremely
small — cramming all the necessary
tools and molecules onto a rectan­
gular wafer smaller than a business
card. Such mini-machines contain
an expansive network of miniature
tubes and columns, each only as big
as a fraction of a drop of water.
Chemists want to use tiny devices
to deliver drugs to specific sites in
the body, allowing for highly tar­
geted treatments with minimal
side effects. Other devices could
measure cholesterol, sugar and
electrolytes in blood, saliva, urine
or tears.
Small tools also allow scientists
to watch biology happen in real time.
Bright, rainbow-colored dyes and a
green fluorescent protein (GFP) that
comes from jellyfish let scientists
track how molecules move around in
living organisms. Often, these experi­
ments are done in simple organisms
like bacteria and yeast, which consist
of only a single cell but have inner
workings with a striking degree of
similarity to human biology.
In studies with human cells,
researchers have tagged cancer
cells with GFP to watch how they
spread to other parts of the body.
They mark insulin-producing cells
in the pancreas to see how they’re
made and gain insights into new
diabetes treatments.
Using another technology, called
quantum dots, scientists use
SHUMING NIE
Quantum dots are nanocrystals that radiate brilliant colors when exposed to ultraviolet light.
microscopic semiconductor crystals
to label proteins and genes. Quantum
dots enable the study of molecules
in a cell as a group, rather than
in isolation.
Dots of slightly different sizes
glow in different fluorescent colors—
larger dots shine red, while slightly
smaller dots shine blue, with a whole
spectrum in between. Researchers
can create up to 40,000 labels by
mixing quantum dots of various
colors and intensities, much like an
artist mixes paint.
Another group of modern chem­
istry tools includes sensors, devices
that measure a physical quantity and
convert it into a signal that can be
read by an observer or instrument.
We use sensors all the time in
our daily lives. A simple example is
a thermometer, which transforms
a measured temperature into the expansion and contraction of a liquid
that can be read on a calibrated
glass tube. Another is a touchsensitive elevator button.
Scientists and doctors use sensors all the time, too. Biosensors
can scan a wide range of biological
materials, from microbes, enzymes
and antibodies to pollutants. The
output, or signal, varies widely as
well, ranging from color to light
to electricity.
One of the most common
examples of a health-related biosensor is a blood glucose monitor.
This miniature device uses the
enzyme glucose oxidase to break
down blood glucose and produce
a readable signal, which indicates
how much sugar is present in a
person’s blood. It is a vital tool for
people with diabetes who must
check their blood sugar several
times a day.
http://www.nigms.nih.gov/ChemHealthWeb
How Small Is Small?
Nanodevices
Nanopores
Dendrimers
Nanotubes
Quantum dots
Nanoshells
Glucose Antibody
Virus
Bacterium Cancer cell
A period
Tennis ball
NIH
Water
10-1
1
10
10 2
10 3
10 4
10 5
10 6
10 7
10 8
Nanometers
Nanotechnology is the study of the control of matter on an
atomic and molecular scale.
Some biosensors rely on mod­
ified microorganisms that detect
toxic substances at very low levels.
They can give us early warning of
environmental contaminants, poi­
sonous gases and even bioterror
agents, such as ricin or anthrax.
Chemistry also plays a central
role in making biomaterials such
as artificial joints, implants, heart
valves and skin patches filled with
hormones or other medicines.
Efforts to engineer artificial
organs — like a liver, pancreas or
bladder — also hinge on chemistry.
Researchers have made test
versions of many artificial organs.
And some, like artificial skin for
the treatment of severe burns
and traumatic injuries, are already
in wide use.
Meet…Jack Taunton
CHEMIST AND CELL BIOLOGIST,
San Francisco, California
Taunton custom-makes molecules in his lab to
figure out how cells do so many amazing things.
BORN IN:
Houston, Texas
Playing and
listening to music, reading chemistry and cell
biology papers, designing small molecules on
the backs of discarded envelopes
BEST WAY TO SPEND A WEEKEND:
JOB SITE:
University of California, San …
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