You may ask yourself what exactly is biophysics? Biophysics is a combination of physical science and cell and molecular biology. It is really an interdisciplinary field that includes concepts from biology, genetics, physiology, medicine, chemistry engineering, mathematics and physics.
The true definition of biophysics can be hard to pin down, as the field is made up of scientists who come from different backgrounds, different focuses, and different views of what biophysics actually is. The main emphasis of biophysics is to gain an understanding of how biological systems work.
The understanding of how the biological systems work is actually gained by applying principles of both physics and chemistry and adding mathematical analysis along with computer modeling. It is quite complex.
Biophysics is actually a molecular science. The properties of molecules including smaller molecules of fatty acids and sugars to larger molecules like proteins, starches and even DNA.
The molecules mentioned above are actually the building blocks. When combined they make up cells, tissues and even whole organisms. They form complex structures that have dimension of 10 to 100 to 1000 to 10,000 nm and even larger.
When proteins combine with ribonucleic acids they form ribosomes. Ribosomes are like small machines that produce proteins. When proteins combine with lipids, they can form into cell membranes. Proteins and DNA form the double helix strand that carries all of the genetic code for an organism.
The structures of biological molecules and the structures that they build into are what Biophysics is concentrating on. The study involves incorporating new ways of looking at the structures and new ways of viewing them. The belief is that, if we can understand how these structures look, then we might move closer to solving some of the world’s problems.
Some of the specific questions that biophysics answer deal with are how cell membranes work; how muscles use ATP hydrolysis, a chemical energy source and change it into mechanical force as well as movement; or how does the DNA molecule replicate itself for cell division.
One part of Biophysics is Bioenergetics, which looks at the chemical conversion of food into biological energy. This is necessary for us to have life, and the reaction takes place inside of cells. Understanding how this reaction takes place can give scientists good insights into better food sources and better nutrition.
Cell biophysics includes looking at cells and their structure, including their membranes. The study includes understanding how certain chemicals can interact with cell membranes, chemical such as fusion peptides like HIV; serum proteins like albumin; toxic proteins and peptides like Nisin Alzheimer’s protein; along with the impact of antibiotics and drugs. Understanding how different cells like endothelial or epithelial or blood cells act toward these different chemicals can help researchers develop better treatments and drugs.
Another area of study that fits under Biophysics is electrophysiology. Electrophysiology is the study of the behavior of the heart with regard to electrical behavior. The electrical movements are recorded from within the heart, allowing cardiologists to better understand what is going on in the heart when a patient is having palpitations, or other heart related problems.
Biophysics also includes the study of muscles and contractility. This study looks to the principles of mechanics and applied them to bones and muscles. For instance, calculating the strength of a certain bone or muscle or the way the muscle creates movement.
Supramolecular assembly is another area that fits under Biophysics. This is a creating a molecular compound that has certain characteristics. The result of weak chemical reactions including dipole-to-dipole interactions, ionic interactions and hydrogen bonds can create a particular assembly that can help certain kinds of drugs to better permeate into the membrane and help patients.
Photobiophysics which focuses on photosynthesis and bioluminescence is also under the biophysics’ umbrella. Photosynthesis is the process in which mainly plants use sunlight to make sugar, which then converts into ATP. Bioluminescence is the study of the light that is produced by a chemical reaction within an organism. This found primarily within marine organisms.
Imaging and spectroscopy are also widely used in biophysics in order to gain a true understanding of the molecular makeup of what is being studied.