The substances having the element “Carbon” in them are called organic compounds. The study of the chemistry of these compounds is called organic chemistry. Organic Chemistry finds many uses like in
- Medicine and health care
- Valuable jewelry
- Chemical analysis
- Chemical synthesis
- Identification of compounds
The subject deals with the carbon compounds ranging from solids like graphite, solvents, and even gases.
If you notice around, you will find very few compounds that lack carbon in them. These include table salt (NaCl), metals, glass, tiles, and? No more.
So most of the substances we use in our daily life are organic.
These include eatables like milk, bread, and sugar.
Also, clothes, shoes, belts, computers, tires, medicines, etc. come under this category.
Due to this vast list of substances and complex chemistry, it is studied as a separate branch of chemistry.
Applications & importance of organic chemistry
In medicine, organic chemistry is used in three ways like
- For drugs,
- Disease Diagnosis
- To study the disease pathology
Though not all but many drugs are made of organic substances. Like
- Anticancer drugs,
- Painkillers (both NSAIDs and morphine derivatives)
- Cardiac drugs, etc.
a) Drugs to cure the diseases:
As said before, many drugs used for the treatment of diseases are made of organic compounds. Hence they are water-insoluble, bitter, and also easily movable in the body tissues.
The drug delivery to the deeper-most parts of the body tissues needs enhancement of lipid solubility. This can be achieved by the change in the organic ratio, i.e., the amount of carbon content that will give the desired effect.
Hence organic chemistry studies the chemistry of the drug and tries to enhance its efficiency, tissue reach and safety. They are made safe by minimizing their toxicity through the process of metabolism.
Further, organic compounds having the same chemical structure have varying effects on the body due to stereoisomerism. The ‘Cis’ and ‘Trans’ isomers play different roles. If you notice anti-Parkinson medicine L-DOPA or an antibiotic Levofloxacin, you can find both drugs having L-configuration (-). They are Levo isomers of the same substance, but the Levo form is more effective than the Dextro forms (+).
As a matter of convenience, the whole thing is studied as medicinal chemistry as part of health care courses.
b) Pathophysiology of the diseases: The study of disease is possible through the knowledge of biochemistry and organic chemistry. Most diseases in humans have some course or pathway before death ensues.
Ex: In gout, there is a disturbance in the purine metabolism; Purines are important moieties of DNA and RNA molecules. The uric acid formed during purine metabolism does not further break down into urea and gets accumulated. The urea crystals get accumulated in the smaller joints causing gout. This can be studied by checking the blood levels of uric acid with that of a normal person.
Similarly, in infections, there is damage to some biochemical components in the body, for example, in malaria. The parasites damage the hemoglobin content of the blood. In this case, the hemoglobin levels go down. This can be recognized by the change in organic functional groups between the normal and diseased patients.
This change in the organic components helps us to study the course and severity of the disease.
c) To diagnose the disease: Here the organic chemistry uses some diagnosing aids to detect the organic part of the disturbing substance.
In diabetics, there are increased sugar levels and, in severe cases, even the ketone levels. Sugars have aldehyde groups (CHO) and ketones (C=O) groups. These groups are the targets of the analysis. The higher concentration of these groups during estimation, the more the sugar levels and vice-versa. So organic chemistry helps in disease diagnosis by checking for the organic functional group of the disturbing substance in the body.
In heart patients, the cholesterol levels in the blood are estimated.
2. Food: Food materials are entirely composed of carbon compounds, viz. carbohydrates (CHO), proteins (NH2-CH-COOH), and fats (CH-COO-CH). Even vitamins are organic in nature. Based on the study of the body requirements during pregnancy, disease conditions, and body fitness, experts advise the use of proteins, vitamins, and other substituents. For example, folic acid is recommended during pregnancy to minimize the chances of anemia in the mother. For the heart patient, doctors advise minimal consumption of a fat diet. And for those interested in bodybuilding advise high consumption of protein-rich diets.
Even beverages made of ethyl alcohol like beer, wine, and vodka have organic matter in them. The knowledge of organic chemistry helps regulates the flavor, quality, and storage of these beverages.
3. Textiles and clothing: Cloth is made of cotton, wool, silk, polyester, etc. All these materials are organic. This chemistry helps in the study of textiles materials, their improvement for durability, color and cleaning process.
4. Cleansing agents: In industries and labs, organic solvents are widely used for cleaning. For example, in drug extraction from plants, the fatty matter from the pulp is removed using petroleum ether.
At home and other places of living, we use phenols and other agents to clean the floor and walls. These sanitizing agents work on the principle of organic chemistry to remove the dirt and also kill the microbes.
Thus organic chemistry, through its knowledge of polarity, solubility, and partition factors, uses solvents for better use.
5. Sterilizing agents: Most of the sterilizing agents and disinfectants like phenol, formaldehyde, etc. are carbon compounds. Due to their properties like solubility, pH they can kill microbes and even human body cells.
They kill the bacteria and other microbes by either dissolving the microbe cell wall or damaging the protein layers. Their efficiency is enhanced by making small tweaks in the compound chemistry.
Besides these solvents, there are gases like ethylene oxide, which are used for sterilization of drugs and manufactured substances.
6. Analytic materials: Chemical substances like drugs, pesticides, and cosmetics are tested as a part of quality control. This testing is done by using different types of titrations, chromatography techniques, and spectrophotometry. Here the reagents like acids, or bases, reducing and oxidizing agents used are organic. Further, the endpoint indicators in the titration are also organic compounds.
For more read→ the Importance of analytical chemistry.
7. Valuables: Diamonds, graphite, petroleum. Interestingly the carbon compounds are found to be highly valuable, durable and the hardest in the world.
Diamond and graphite are both pure carbon alone compounds without any other elements inside. They are both highly used and expensive. Their properties are studied in organic chemistry. Petroleum is the other most valued resource on the earth for fuel needs in the world. These petroleum products are further diversified for various uses. And petroleum is one of the factors which influence the world economy.
Other applications and uses:
Organic chemistry finds its application to a large extent in the field of medicine, pesticides, petroleum sector, textile, etc.
1. For analysis: Not all organic substances are soluble in water. So they can be analyzed by non-aqueous titration. For this, they use organic solvents like pyridine, methanol, acetone, etc.
Further other methods like chromatography, and spectroscopy (infrared spectroscopy) also employ organic solvents for analysis. This analysis helps to test the given compound for its purity, quantity, etc.
2. For synthesis: Organic chemistry helps us synthesize many compounds that are needed on a large scale. For example, we find a drug molecule in nature by chance or a bi-product of some reaction. Then that drug molecule can be synthesized by knowledge of organic chemistry for large-scale use.
So we see many drug manufacturing companies filing for patents to manufacture the same drug in their methods. The same molecule can be made by using different steps of the reaction. But pharma companies try to make it by an organic reaction which is inexpensive for better profits. For more details refer to the standard textbooks on organic chemistry.
3. Identification: This is another area where the importance of organic chemistry plays a major role. Most substances either extracted from plants or animals are identified by the use of specific tests. These tests employ organic compounds and related techniques. For an idea, see the tests for carbohydrates.
4. For better molecules: If a molecule is already used for a long time. It can be replaced by similar molecules with a slight change in its chemistry. This change is aimed at more effective performance. This is possible by substituting some organic functional groups.
Thus the importance of organic chemistry is immense in human life.