Editor’s observe: Nathan Ahlgren is an assistant professor of biology at Clark College. On this interview, he explains precisely what proteins are, how they’re made, and the big variety of capabilities they carry out within the human physique.
What’s a protein?
A protein is a primary construction that’s present in all of life. It’s a molecule. And the important thing factor a couple of protein is it’s made up of smaller parts, referred to as amino acids. I like to consider them as a string of various coloured beads. Every bead would signify an amino acid, that are smaller molecules containing carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and generally sulfur atoms. So a protein primarily is a string that’s made up of those little particular person amino acids. There are 22 totally different amino acids which you could mix in any sort of totally different means.
A protein doesn’t normally exist as a string, however really folds up into a selected form, relying on the order and the way these totally different amino acids work together collectively. That form influences what the protein does in our physique.
The place do the amino acids come from?
The amino acids in our physique come from the meals we eat. We additionally make them in our physique. For instance, different animals make proteins and we eat these. Our our bodies take that chain and break it down into the person amino acids. Then it may well remake them into any protein that we want.
As soon as the proteins are damaged down into amino acids within the digestive system, they’re taken to our cells and sort of float round contained in the cell, as these little particular person beads in our analogy. After which contained in the cell, your physique principally connects them collectively to make the proteins that your physique must make.
We are able to make about half of the amino acids we want on our personal, however we’ve got to get the others from our meals.
What do proteins do in our physique?
Scientists will not be precisely certain, however most agree that there are round 20,000 totally different proteins in our physique. Some research recommend that there may be much more. They perform a wide range of capabilities from doing a little metabolic conversions to holding your cells collectively to inflicting your muscle mass to work.
Their capabilities fall into a number of broad classes. One is structural. Your physique is made up of many various sorts of buildings – consider stringlike buildings, globules, anchors, and many others. They type the stuff that holds your physique collectively. Collagen is a protein that provides construction to your pores and skin, bones and even tooth. Integrin is a protein that makes versatile linkages between your cells. Your hair and nails are made from a protein referred to as keratin.
One other huge position that they tackle is biochemistry – how your physique carries out specific reactions in your cell, like breaking down fats or amino acids. Keep in mind once I mentioned our physique breaks down the protein from the meals that we eat? Even that perform is carried out by proteins like pepsin. One other instance is hemoglobin – the protein that carries oxygen round in your blood. In order that they’re finishing up these particular chemical reactions inside your self.
Proteins can even course of alerts and knowledge, like circadian clock proteins which maintain time in our cells, however these are a number of predominant classes of capabilities that proteins perform within the cell.
Why is protein typically related to muscle mass and meat?
Several types of meals have totally different sorts of protein content material. There are plenty of carbohydrates in crops like wheat and rice, however they’re much less wealthy in protein content material. However meat typically has extra protein content material. Loads of protein is required to make the muscle mass in your physique. That’s why protein is commonly related to consuming meat and constructing muscle, however proteins are actually concerned in a lot, way more than that.
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