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The Application of Enzymes in Industry and Medicine

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The Application of Enzymes in Industry and Medicine The use of enzymes in the diagnosis of disease is one of the important benefits derived from the intensive research in biochemistry since the 1940's. Enzymes have provided the basis for the field of clinical chemistry. It is, however, only within the recent past few decades that interest in diagnostic enzymology has multiplied. Many methods currently on record in the literature are not in wide use, and there are still large areas of medical research in which the diagnostic potential of enzyme reactions has not been explored at all. Enzymes are also used widely in industry in a variety of aspects ranging from use in the textile industry to the food industry. All known enzymes are proteins. They are high molecular weight compounds made up principally of chains of amino acids linked together by peptide bonds. See Figure 1. ( One of the properties of enzymes that make them so important as diagnostic and research tools is the specificity they exhibit relative to the reactions they catalyse. A few enzymes exhibit absolute specificity; that is, they will catalyse only one particular reaction. Other enzymes will be specific for a particular type of chemical bond or functional group. In general, there are four distinct types of specificity: Absolute specificity - the enzyme will catalyse only one reaction. Group specificity - the enzyme will act only on molecules that have specific functional groups, such as amino, phosphate and methyl groups. Linkage specificity - the enzyme will act on a particular type of chemical bond regardless of the rest of the molecular structure.


Even though many campaign governments have released very little information on which enzymes are produced from genetically engineered organisms, they feel consumer confidence would lower and this cause problems for many large corporations and therefore cause problems for the economy. However due to this concern many food companies have launched an all organic range to appease people who feel this way and also so they do not miss out on this market which is increasingly growing as more research is done into this area. Enzymes are increasingly used in the food industry one enzyme many are grateful for is Chymosin. This is actually one of the few enzymes that are known to have been made from genetically engineered organisms. Chymosin, known also as Rennin, is a proteolytic enzyme synthesized by chief cells in the stomach. Its role in digestion is to curdle or coagulate milk in the stomach, a process of considerable importance. If milk were not coagulated, it would rapidly flow through the stomach and miss the opportunity for initial digestion of its proteins. ( However Chymosin is used in the food industry in cheese making. Chymosin efficiently converts liquid milk to a semisolid like cottage cheese, allowing it to be retained for longer periods. Its does the same in the body allowing it to be retained for longer periods in the stomach. In the body Chymosin secretion is maximal during the first few days after birth, and declines thereafter, replaced in effect by secretion of pepsin as the major gastric protease. Chymosin is also similar to pepsin in being most active in acidic environments, which makes sense considering its mission.


(Medical Journal Article - Dr. Pavels Ivdra - 1996) Proteases are also used in wound therapy. In this case they are called debriding agents and are used to clean a wound and therefore accelerate the healing process. Some proteases are also used as anti-inflammatory reagents. An enzyme called super oxide dismutase is also available as an anti-inflammatory agent, but how successful it has been as a commercial product, is not clear but medically the product does the job required. ( Enzymes can also be used in a healing way by aiding bodily functions. Enzymes are used to aid digestion, both in humans and animals. In humans, enzymes are used to supplement the natural amylase, lipase and protease produced normally by the pancreas. Many people also have a problem called lactose intolerance. This means as these people get older they lose the enzyme lactase (converts lactose into glucose and galactose). This means they cannot ingest milk or dairy products. Lactase supplements help to avoid stomach upsets for these people. (Biology for You - Gareth Williams) In conclusion it is simple to see that life today as we know would be very different, in fact it would be impossible as enzymes are used everyday by our bodies to perform what some may see as everyday functions. However in regards to industry and medicine in particular enzymes play a huge role. They are used in many of the treatments administered to patients and much more. They also play a major role in industry, becoming over the years a billion dollar market. Quite simply although they go unnoticed by many they are owned a great amount of gratitude and as a great immunologist Dr. Pavels Ivdra once said 'Enzymes the unsung heroes' (Medical Journal 1996).

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