Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that applies the approaches
and methods of physics to study biological systems.
all scales of biological organization, from molecular to organismic
and populations. Biophysical research shares significant overlap with
biochemistry, physical chemistry, nanotechnology, bioengineering,
computational biology, biomechanics and systems biology.
The term biophysics was originally introduced by
Karl Pearson in
3 Focus as a subfield
4 See also
6 External links
Molecular biophysics typically addresses biological questions similar
to those in biochemistry and molecular biology, seeking to find the
physical underpinnings of biomolecular phenomena. Scientists in this
field conduct research concerned with understanding the interactions
between the various systems of a cell, including the interactions
RNA and protein biosynthesis, as well as how these
interactions are regulated. A great variety of techniques are used to
answer these questions.
Fluorescent imaging techniques, as well as electron microscopy, x-ray
crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy (AFM) and
small-angle scattering (SAS) both with X-rays and neutrons (SAXS/SANS)
are often used to visualize structures of biological significance.
Protein dynamics can be observed by neutron spin echo spectroscopy.
Conformational change in structure can be measured using techniques
such as dual polarisation interferometry, circular dichroism,
SANS. Direct manipulation of molecules using optical tweezers or AFM,
can also be used to monitor biological events where forces and
distances are at the nanoscale. Molecular biophysicists often consider
complex biological events as systems of interacting entities which can
be understood e.g. through statistical mechanics, thermodynamics and
chemical kinetics. By drawing knowledge and experimental techniques
from a wide variety of disciplines, biophysicists are often able to
directly observe, model or even manipulate the structures and
interactions of individual molecules or complexes of molecules.
In addition to traditional (i.e. molecular and cellular) biophysical
topics like structural biology or enzyme kinetics, modern biophysics
encompasses an extraordinarily broad range of research, from
bioelectronics to quantum biology involving both experimental and
theoretical tools. It is becoming increasingly common for
biophysicists to apply the models and experimental techniques derived
from physics, as well as mathematics and statistics, to larger systems
such as tissues, organs, populations and ecosystems. Biophysical
models are used extensively in the study of electrical conduction in
single neurons, as well as neural circuit analysis in both tissue and
Medical physics, a branch of biophysics, is any application of physics
to medicine or healthcare, ranging from radiology to microscopy and
nanomedicine. For example, physicist
Richard Feynman theorized about
the future of nanomedicine. He wrote about the idea of a medical use
for biological machines (see nanomachines). Feynman and Albert Hibbs
suggested that certain repair machines might one day be reduced in
size to the point that it would be possible to (as Feynman put it)
"swallow the doctor". The idea was discussed in Feynman's 1959 essay
There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom.
Some of the earlier studies in biophysics were conducted in the 1840s
by a group known as the Berlin school of physiologists. Among its
members were pioneers such as Hermann von Helmholtz, Ernst Heinrich
Weber, Carl F. W. Ludwig, and Johannes Peter Müller. Biophysics
might even be seen as dating back to the studies of Luigi Galvani.
The popularity of the field rose when the book
What Is Life?
What Is Life? by Erwin
Schrödinger was published. Since 1957 biophysicists have organized
themselves into the
Biophysical Society which now has about 9,000
members over the world.
Some authors such as Robert Rosen criticize biophysics on the ground
that the biophysical method does not take into account the specificity
of biological phenomena
Focus as a subfield
While some colleges and universities have dedicated departments of
biophysics, usually at the graduate level, many do not have
university-level biophysics departments, instead having groups in
related departments such as biochemistry, cell biology, chemistry,
computer science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, molecular
biology, neuroscience, pharmacology, physics, and physiology.
Depending on the strengths of a department at a university differing
emphasis will be given to fields of biophysics. What follows is a list
of examples of how each department applies its efforts toward the
study of biophysics. This list is hardly all inclusive. Nor does each
subject of study belong exclusively to any particular department. Each
academic institution makes its own rules and there is much overlap
Biology and molecular biology – Almost all forms of biophysics
efforts are included in some biology department somewhere. Typical
examples include: gene regulation, single protein dynamics,
bioenergetics, patch clamping, biomechanics, virophysics.
Structural biology – Ångstrom-resolution structures of proteins,
nucleic acids, lipids, carbohydrates, and complexes thereof.
Biochemistry and chemistry – biomolecular structure, siRNA, nucleic
acid structure, structure-activity relationships.
Computer science – Neural networks, biomolecular and drug databases.
Computational chemistry – molecular dynamics simulation, molecular
docking, quantum chemistry
Bioinformatics – sequence alignment, structural alignment, protein
Mathematics – graph/network theory, population modeling, dynamical
Medicine – biophysical research that emphasizes medicine.
Neuroscience – studying neural networks experimentally (brain
slicing) as well as theoretically (computer models), membrane
permittivity, gene therapy, understanding tumors.
Pharmacology and physiology – channelomics, biomolecular
interactions, cellular membranes, polyketides.
Physics – negentropy, stochastic processes, and the development of
new physical techniques and instrumentation as well as their
Quantum biology – The field of quantum biology applies quantum
mechanics to biological objects and problems. Decohered isomers to
yield time-dependent base substitutions. These studies imply
applications in quantum computing.
Agronomy and agriculture
Many biophysical techniques are unique to this field. Research efforts
in biophysics are often initiated by scientists who were biologists,
chemists or physicists by training.
Molecular and Cellular
Index of biophysics articles
List of publications in biology – Biophysics
List of publications in physics – Biophysics
List of biophysicists
Outline of biophysics
European Biophysical Societies' Association
^ Pearson, Karl (1892). The Grammar of Science. p. 470.
^ Roland Glaser. Biophysics: An Introduction. Springer; 23 April 2012.
^ Richard P. Feynman (December 1959). "There's Plenty of Room at the
^ Donald R. Franceschetti. Applied Science - 5 Volume Set. SALEM
PressINC; 15 May 2012. ISBN 978-1-58765-781-8. p. 234.
^ Joe Rosen; Lisa Quinn Gothard. Encyclopedia of Physical Science.
Infobase Publishing; 2009. ISBN 978-0-8160-7011-4. p. 49.
^ Longo, Giuseppe; Montévil, Maël (2012-01-01). "The inert vs. the
living state of matter: extended criticality, time geometry,
anti-entropy – an overview". Fractal Physiology. 3: 39.
doi:10.3389/fphys.2012.00039. PMC 3286818 .
Perutz MF (1962). Proteins and Nucleic Acids: Structure and Function.
Amsterdam: Elsevier. ASIN B000TS8P4G.
Perutz MF (1969). "The haemoglobin molecule". Proceedings of the Royal
Society of London. Series B. 173 (31): 113–40.
Dogonadze RR, Urushadze ZD (1971). "Semi-Classical Method of
Calculation of Rates of Chemical Reactions Proceeding in Polar
Liquids". J Electroanal Chem. 32 (2): 235–245.
Volkenshtein M.V., Dogonadze R.R., Madumarov A.K., Urushadze Z.D. and
Kharkats Yu.I. Theory of Enzyme Catalysis.- Molekuliarnaya Biologia
(Moscow), 6, 1972, pp. 431–439 (In Russian, English summary.
Available translations in Italian, Spanish, English, French)
Rodney M. J. Cotterill (2002). Biophysics : An Introduction.
Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-48538-4.
Sneppen K, Zocchi G (2005-10-17).
Physics in Molecular
ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-84419-3.
Glaser, Roland (2004-11-23). Biophysics: An Introduction (Corrected
ed.). Springer. ISBN 3-540-67088-2.
Hobbie RK, Roth BJ (2006). Intermediate
Biology (4th ed.). Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-30942-2.
Cooper WG (2009). "Evidence for transcriptase quantum processing
implies entanglement and decoherence of superposition proton states".
BioSystems. 97 (2): 73–89. doi:10.1016/j.biosystems.2009.04.010.
Cooper WG (2009). "Necessity of quantum coherence to account for the
spectrum of time-dependent mutations exhibited by bacteriophage T4".
Biochem. Genet. 47 (11–12): 892–910.
doi:10.1007/s10528-009-9293-8. PMID 19882244.
Goldfarb, Daniel (2010).
Biophysics Demystified. McGraw-Hill.
At Wikiversity, you can learn more and teach others about Biophysics
at the Department of Biophysics
Journal of Physiology: 2012 virtual issue
Biophysics and Beyond
Link archive of learning resources for students: biophysika.de (60%
English, 40% German)
Journal of Medicine,
Physiology and Biophysics,(IISTE), USA. Chief
Editor of the journal is Ignat Ignatov. Chief editor of all IISTE
journals is Alexander Decker.
Branches of physics
Quantum field theory
Physics in life science
Branches of life science and biology
Origin of life