The Make Up of Life

I thought I’d kick off the posts on this blog by tackling a bit of the biology that makes us the fabulous beings that we are. The beauty industry throws around a lot of biology buzz words in their adverts which, with a bit of understanding about what our bodies are made up of, can easily be decoded…

Our bodies our made up of millions of cells, tiny bags of chemicals which work together to allow our organs to perform their jobs. Stem cells are the precursors to the cells in our tissues which can be thought of as blank canvases as with the right stimulation they can become any type of cell and help our bodies to repair and grow. Stem cells are hot news in the science community and many lab are trying to harness these useful cells to cure diseases such as arthritis and diabetes, to replace damaged tissue. Sounds great right? It is, we’re even at the stage where replacement organs can be grown but many of these new treatments are far from ready. The problems arise in getting the replacement cells to the areas they’re needed and often when they get there they form the wrong types of cells or grow uncontrollably and cause cancer. Not so good, but still a fascinating and promising area of research! Many beauty adverts have plugged into this trendy topic (usually in the same sentence as ‘rejuvenate’ or ‘replenish’) and are using stem cell extracts in their products; I will be investigating the science behind these treatments in due course, so keep your eye on The Scientific Beauty to see how this cutting edge biology can be used in your own home!

To move onto a smaller scale, what are our cells made up of that let’s them do what they need to do? The answer: proteins. Many people associate the word protein with one of the key food groups as in chicken and steak. This is correct as meat is made up of protein but there are THOUSANDS of proteins in our body, each with its own specific function, not just those found in muscles. These proteins are molecules which perform all the vital functions needed for life, from carrying the oxygen in our blood to transmitting signals through our nerves. Protein biochemistry is a huge area of biology (I’m a protein biochemist though, so maybe I’m biased!). Many biochemical principles are applied to beauty products and rightly so as these molecules can (and do) perform wonders in our bodies. As I’m mad keen on proteins I will be further exploring the use of these marvellous molecules by the beauty industry here in this blog!

But what then are proteins made up of? Proteins are made up of amino acids, a range of 20 lego brick molecules which can be pieced together in thousands of ways to make proteins of all shapes and sizes. These amino acids are essential to life; we either make them from scratch or get them from our food and put them together in our cells to make proteins. They are often included in beauty products to help our bodies gain these molecules and use them to make us look fabulous!

Our bodies know how to put these proteins together as its coded in our DNA. Information in genes can be decoded from our DNA by proteins which read the messages in our DNA, almost like Morse code, and translate these instructions into proteins. Through this mechanism our genes determine everything about us, from our hair colour to our height to how well we age. It would be nice if we could change the genes which alter our skin tone or hair colour but unfortunately we’re not even at the stage where we can fix genetic diseases, though people are trying! But you never know, one day I’m certain anything will be possible!

So there we have it, the basics of biology! Hopefully this has given an insight to the fascinating science behind how our bodies work and will help in understanding how science is used by the beauty industry in products which we use every day. Stay tuned to The Scientific Beauty for reviews of products and how they use this science!

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