Biochemistry and Human Health investigates the structure of biological molecules and the roles they play from individual cells to the entire human body. These biological molecules provide the biochemical basis of human health and disease states and provide a relatable learning context throughout the course. Once students move beyond the basics of these molecules, they will learn how to apply them to human health including the ability to:
- understand enzyme function (kinetics, inhibition, and activation)
- demonstrate that carbon-containing molecules can be used to assemble larger molecules with biological activity.
- classify the four main groups of biologically important organic molecules (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids) and their monomer units.
Unlike some approaches to teaching biochemistry, this course begins by exploring protein structure, enzyme function (i.e., what are they and what they do), and ligand binding (i.e., enzyme inhibitors and activators). Students then investigate and learn about molecules and how they change with variables like disease within this context.
Structure and function serve as organizing themes, whether exploring the structures of amino acids, their chemical properties and their organization into polypeptides and proteins or the structure of different classes of lipids and their function in biological systems. For example, students explore the following types of questions:
- What are the amino acids? How do they offer so much diversity in proteins?
- How do proteins form? What determines the structure? Why is it important for a protein to fold the same way every time?
- How do cells synthesize lipids? What happens if there are too many lipids in the body?
The course covers biochemical pathways and biological systems to give students the opportunity to understand the diseases associated with them. For example, students will learn the pathways in metabolism and various associated diseases states, such as diabetes. Other disease states are explored to demonstrate examples of when a biological system (e.g., immunity) loses the ability to produce molecules in a particular sequence or can no longer convert one molecule into another. Students may explore:
- What is the connection between “pathways” and overall physiology to other biochemical processes such as immunity?
- How do inhibiting enzymes and biological pathways work and how does this relate to drug design?
- How is the treatment of disease from symptom to protein target to drug design accomplished? What are the benefits, and how does this differ from other approaches to drug design?
- What is the relationship between “signaling and disease?
From the outset of class, each student will be loaned a 3D modeling toolbox so that s/he can return to the basic structure of each macromolecule under exploration. In additional to always having a hands-on modeling toolbox, the course includes a series of labs.
Home school students have regular home extension (homework) assignments to ensure curricular coverage and learning consolidation. After school and weekend sessions receive assignments that maintain learning continuity between sessions.
Site visits or visiting specialists! The Ti2 team engages area research institutions and industries to help students understand how and why people are investigating the science behind and developing innovative solutions to the topics and issues covered in this course.
Over the course of the year, learning entry points may include the use of fiction and non-fiction literature, field trips, and art.