Levels of Organization Image Map
Information Coding

Why is the information coding job of proteins important?

Proteins come in many sizes and shapes. You could say that they have an information code.  Think of it like a language vocabulary. When you were a baby, and you only knew four or five words, it was very frustrating trying to tell your parents what you wanted. But as your vocabulary increased, so did the range of possible ways of expressing yourself to your parents and to others.
Because proteins come in so many varieties, proteins can code for and control many different cell functions.

How are such codes used? 

  1. Proteins that are embedded in cell membranes:

a. Recognize adjacent cells and thus help maintain organization of tissues

b. Recognize chemicals outside of the cell and thus helps cells respond appropriately to hormones, drugs, and chemicals used to send signals in the nervous system.

  1. Proteins that are inside of cells:

a. Act as enzymes to help chemical reactions occur.

b. Help turn genes on and off

c. Some small proteins (peptides) can be secreted to act as hormones and chemicals used to send signals in the nervous system


Health and Medicine

Normal proteins are required for good health.

Life as we know it would not exist without proteins. Everybody knows how important genes are, but genes get their importance from the fact that they direct the creation of proteins. Normal health depends on normal proteins. Disease almost always involves damage to certain proteins and interference with their normal function.
Are proteins used for medical therapy?
Protein Digestion Diagram
No, not as such, because proteins are so big they can't get into cells from the outside. They have to be made inside the cells. Now you know why it won't work to take proteins in a pill or powder form like other medicines.

What about proteins that you eat? Meat has lots of proteins. What happens to meat that you eat? 

  • It gets digested, of course. 
  • And what does digestion mean? .... broken down (to amino acids). So any proteins you eat get broken down. 
  • Then the pieces get taken into your cells and are used as building blocks to make new protein

If you know why proteins are medically important, what they do, and how they are made by instructions from the genes, there is the possibility that you can control the inside-the-cell production of proteins. Thus, there is the possibility of correcting genetic disorders or treating a variety of medical conditions. This is the whole idea of "gene therapy".

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