Some life sciences focus on a specific type of life. For example, zoology is the study of animals, while botany is the study of plants. Other life sciences focus on aspects common to all or many life forms, such as anatomy and genetics. Yet other fields are interested in technological advances involving living things, such as bio-engineering. Another major, though more specific, branch of life sciences involves understanding the mind – neuroscience.
The life sciences are helpful in improving the quality and standard of life. They have applications in health, agriculture, medicine, and the pharmaceutical and food science industries.
There is considerable overlap between many of the topics of study in the life sciences.
Biology – branch of natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Modern biology is a vast and eclectic field, composed of many branches and subdisciplines. However, despite the broad scope of biology, there are certain general and unifying concepts within it that govern all study and research, consolidating it into a single, coherent field. In general, biology recognizes the cell as the basic unit of life, genes as the basic unit of heredity, and evolution as the engine that propels the synthesis and creation of new species. It is also understood today that all organisms survive by consuming and transforming energy and by regulating their internal environment to maintain a stable and vital condition. Here are some of biology's major branches:
Agriculture – study of producing crops and raising livestock, with an emphasis on practical applications
Anatomy – study of form and function, in plants, animals, and other organisms, or specifically in humans
Biochemistry – study of the chemical reactions required for life to exist and function, usually a focus on the cellular level
Bioengineering – study of biology through the means of engineering with an emphasis on applied knowledge and especially related to biotechnology
Biomechanics – often considered a branch of medicine, the study of the mechanics of living beings, with an emphasis on applied use through prosthetics or orthotics
Zoology – study of animals, including classification, physiology, development, and behavior.
Medicine and its branches
Medicine – applied science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness. Some of its branches are:
Biocomputers – biocomputers use systems of biologically derived molecules, such as DNA and proteins, to perform computational calculations involving storing, retrieving, and processing data. The development of biocomputers has been made possible by the expanding new science of nanobiotechnology.
Bioinformatics – interdisciplinary scientific field that develops methods for storing, retrieving, organizing and analyzing biological data. A major activity in bioinformatics is to develop software tools to generate useful biological knowledge.
Biomaterials – any matter, surface, or construct that interacts with biological systems. As a science, biomaterials is about fifty years old. The study of biomaterials is called biomaterials science. It has experienced steady and strong growth over its history, with many companies investing large amounts of money into the development of new products. Biomaterials science encompasses elements of medicine, biology, chemistry, tissue engineering and materials science.
Food science – applied science devoted to the study of food. Activities of food scientists include the development of new food products, design of processes to produce and conserve these foods, choice of packaging materials, shelf-life studies, study of the effects of food on the human body, sensory evaluation of products using panels or potential consumers, as well as microbiological, physical (texture and rheology) and chemical testing.
Genomics – applies recombinant DNA, DNA sequencing methods, and bioinformatics to sequence, assemble, and analyze the function and structure of genomes (the complete set of DNA within a single cell of an organism). The field includes efforts to determine the entire DNA sequence of organisms and fine-scale genetic mapping. The field also includes studies of intragenomic phenomena such as heterosis, epistasis, pleiotropy and other interactions between loci and alleles within the genome. In contrast, the investigation of the roles and functions of single genes is a primary focus of molecular biology or genetics and is a common topic of modern medical and biological research. Research of single genes does not fall into the definition of genomics unless the aim of this genetic, pathway, and functional information analysis is to elucidate its effect on, place in, and response to the entire genome's networks.
Health sciences – The health sciences are a key branch of the life sciences, comprising all divisions of medicine and medical sciences.
Immunogenetics – Immunogenetics or immungenetics is the branch of medical research that explores the relationship between the immune system and genetics. Autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, are complex genetic traits which result from defects in the immune system. Identification of genes defining the immune defects may identify new target genes for therapeutic approaches. Alternatively, genetic variations can also help to define the immunological pathway leading to disease.
Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy is a medical term defined as the "treatment of disease by inducing, enhancing, or suppressing an immune response". Immunotherapies designed to elicit or amplify an immune response are classified as activation immunotherapies, while immunotherapies that reduce or suppress are classified as suppression immunotherapies.
Kinesiology – Kinesiology, also known as human kinetics, is the scientific study of human movement. Kinesiology addresses physiological, mechanical, and psychological mechanisms. Applications of kinesiology to human health include: biomechanics and orthopedics; strength and conditioning; sport psychology; methods of rehabilitation, such as physical and occupational therapy; and sport and exercise. Individuals who have earned degrees in kinesiology can work in research, the fitness industry, clinical settings, and in industrial environments. Studies of human and animal motion include measures from motion tracking systems, electrophysiology of muscle and brain activity, various methods for monitoring physiological function, and other behavioral and cognitive research techniques.
Medical device – A medical device is an instrument, apparatus, implant, in vitro reagent, or similar or related article that is used to diagnose, prevent, or treat disease or other conditions, and does not achieve its purposes through chemical action within or on the body (which would make it a drug). Whereas medicinal products (also called pharmaceuticals) achieve their principal action by pharmacological, metabolic or immunological means, medical devices act by other means like physical, mechanical, or thermal means.
Medical imaging is the technique and process used to create images of the human body (or parts and function thereof) for clinical purposes (medical procedures seeking to reveal, diagnose, or examine disease) or medical science (including the study of normal anatomy and physiology). Although imaging of removed organs and tissues can be performed for medical reasons, such procedures are not usually referred to as medical imaging, but rather are a part of pathology. Examples of medical imaging include:
Medical social work – Medical social work is a sub-discipline of social work, also known as hospital social work. Medical social workers typically work in a hospital, skilled nursing facility or hospice, have a graduate degree in the field, and work with patients and their families in need of psychosocial help. Medical social workers assess the psychosocial functioning of patients and families and intervene as necessary. Interventions may include connecting patients and families to necessary resources and supports in the community; providing psychotherapy, supportive counselling, or grief counselling; or helping a patient to expand and strengthen their network of social supports.
Neuroethology – Neuroethology is the evolutionary and comparative approach study of animal behavior and the understanding of an animal's nervous system.
Optogenetics – Optogenetics is a neuromodulation technique employed in neuroscience that uses a combination of techniques from optics and genetics to control and monitor the activities of individual neurons in living tissue—even within freely-moving animals—and to precisely measure the effects of those manipulations in real-time. The key reagents used in optogenetics are light-sensitive proteins. Spatially-precise neuronal control is achieved using optogenetic actuators like channelrhodopsin, halorhodopsin, and archaerhodopsin, while temporally-precise recordings can be made with the help of optogenetic sensors like Clomeleon, Mermaid, and SuperClomeleon.
Pharmacology is the branch of medicine and biology concerned with the study of drug action, where a drug can be broadly defined as any man-made, natural, or endogenous (within the body) molecule which exerts a biochemical and/or physiological effect on the cell, tissue, organ, or organism. More specifically, it is the study of the interactions that occur between a living organism and chemicals that affect normal or abnormal biochemical function. If substances have medicinal properties, they are considered pharmaceuticals.
Proteomics – Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteins, particularly their structures and functions. Proteins are vital parts of living organisms, as they are the main components of the physiological metabolic pathways of cells. The proteome is the entire set of proteins, produced or modified by an organism or system. This varies with time and distinct requirements, or stresses, that a cell or organism undergoes.
^Panksepp J (1992). "A role for "affective neuroscience" in understanding stress: the case of separation distress circuitry". In Puglisi-Allegra S, Oliverio A. Psychobiology of Stress. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic. pp. 41–58. ISBN0-7923-0682-1.
^Florian Leiber, Nikolai Fuchs and Hartmut Spieß, "Biodynamic agriculture today", in Paul Kristiansen, Acram Taji, and John Reganold (2006), Organic Agriculture: A global perspective, Collingwood, AU: CSIRO Publishing
^Richard Harwood, former C.S. Mott Chair for Sustainable Agriculture at Michigan State University, calls the biodynamic movement the "first organized and well-defined movement of growers and philosophies [in sustainable agriculture] (Harwood 1990; p.6).
^Angerer, Jürgen; Ewers, Ulrich; Wilhelm, Michael (2007). "Human biomonitoring: State of the art". International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health210 (3–4): 201–28. doi:10.1016/j.ijheh.2007.01.024. PMID17376741.
^Mohanty, A.K., et al., Natural Fibers, Biopolymers, and Biocomposites (CRC Press, 2005)
^Chandra, R., and Rustgi, R., "Biodegradable Polymers", Progress in Polymer Science, Vol. 23, p. 1273 (1998)
^Meyers, M.A., et al., "Biological Materials: Structure & Mechanical Properties", Progress in Materials Science, Vol. 53, p. 1 (2008)
^Kumar, A., et al., "Smart Polymers: Physical Forms & Bioengineering Applications", Progress in Polymer Science, Vol. 32, p.1205 (2007)
^Bodo Rosenhahn, Reinhard Klette and Dimitris Metaxas (eds.). Human Motion - Understanding, Modelling, Capture and Animation. Volume 36 in 'Computational Imaging and Vision', Springer, Dordrecht, 2007
^Ahmed Elgammal, Bodo Rosenhahn, and Reinhard Klette (eds.) Human Motion - Understanding, Modelling, Capture and Animation. 2nd Workshop, in conjunction with ICCV 2007, Rio de Janeiro, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, LNCS 4814, Springer, Berlin, 2007
^Mancuso, J. J.; Kim, J.; Lee, S.; Tsuda, S.; Chow, N. B. H.; Augustine, G. J. (2010). "Optogenetic probing of functional brain circuitry". Experimental Physiology96 (1): 26–33. doi:10.1113/expphysiol.2010.055731. PMID21056968. edit
^Ermak G., Modern Science & Future Medicine (second edition), 164 p., 2013
^Marc R. Wilkins, Christian Pasquali, Ron D. Appel, Keli Ou, Olivier Golaz, Jean-Charles Sanchez, Jun X. Yan, Andrew. A. Gooley, Graham Hughes, Ian Humphery-Smith, Keith L. Williams & Denis F. Hochstrasser (1996). "From Proteins to Proteomes: Large Scale Protein Identification by Two-Dimensional Electrophoresis and Arnino Acid Analysis". Nature Biotechnology14 (1): 61–65. doi:10.1038/nbt0196-61. PMID9636313.
^Silverman, Wade H. (1 September 1985). "The evolving mental health professions: Psychiatric social work, clinical psychology, psychiatry, and psychiatric nursing". The journal of mental health administration12 (2): 28–31. ISSN0092-8623.
^"The mission of the APA [American Psychological Association] is to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives"; APA (2010). About APA. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
Magner, Lois N. (2002). A history of the life sciences (Rev. and expanded 3rd ed.). New York: M. Dekker. ISBN0824708245.