Biophysics

Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that applies approaches and methods traditionally used in physics to study biological phenomena and processes. Biology studies life in all its forms, from DNA to organisms as a whole, and describes the mechanisms by which living things feed themselves, communicate, interact with their environment, and reproduce. Physics studies the mathematical laws underlying natural phenomena and provides accurate predictions of the forces that operate in complex systems.

Biophysics partially matches and overlaps with fields such as molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, physical chemistry, biomechanics, and computational biology.

The term biophysics is also regularly used to refer to the study of physical quantities (such as electric current, temperature, stress, entropy) in biological systems, the object of study, by definition, of physiology.

Narrowing the gap between the complexity of life and the simplicity of mathematical laws is the main challenge that animates biophysics. Uncovering the workings of living matter and analyzing them with mathematical, physical and computer methods is perhaps the most effective way to improve understanding.

Reaching the molecular level in the study of many biological mechanisms is the basis of what is called molecular biophysics, which deals specifically with the structure of molecules of biological interest. In this sense is also used the expression “molecular biology” that is however more used for the study of the structure of biological macromolecules and in particular proteins and nucleic acids. Biophysics is also based on quantum mechanics for the study of the interaction between molecules and electromagnetic waves and thermodynamics, especially that of irreversible processes or non-equilibrium, which allows the study of biological systems that exchange matter and energy with the outside and in which irreversible processes take place continuously.

Biophysics has also dealt with the structures and functions of the various organelles present in cells, and in particular those that constitute the energy system such as chloroplasts and mitochondria. Important biophysical researches have also been conducted on biological membranes with regard to the problems of permeability and concentration of ionic and non-ionic substances, but especially with regard to active transport or the ability of membranes to actively pump, therefore with energy consumption, substances from areas of low concentration to areas of high concentration.

Biophysics is a source of innovation and is able to respond to the needs of our society. In particular, in recent years this science has provided important contributions to the search for possible cures for diseases: from diabetes to cancer, from neurodegenerative diseases to genetic diseases. Biophysicists do not get to deal with clinical aspects but they provide the necessary knowledge to understand the mechanisms underlying diseases, thus providing a fundamental contribution to the engineering of the right drug or the best treatment protocol for the specific disease. Today it is increasingly evident that human health is linked to that of the entire planet and therefore biophysical methods are increasingly applied to problems related to the environment. How will we manage to have enough energy to cover growing needs? How will we remedy global warming? How will we preserve biodiversity? How will we preserve the works of art that are part of our culture or how can we properly restore them? How will we have clean water for everyone? With biophysics we will be able to answer these challenges and many more because every day biologists, physicists, chemists, doctors and engineers work in synergy in the field of biophysics, promoting scientific and technological innovation.

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