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The application of enzymes in industry and medicine

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In modern industry enzymes are used to control many different reactions. For example they are used to ferment beer, they are used to make detergents more efficient, they are used in the textile industry and in recycling.

“The food processing industry uses a great many enzymes.”

An example of the use of enzymes in the food industry is in bread making.

Traditionally in bread making the wheat flour used has its own natural enzymes that help to make the dough. The yeast also contains enzymes, these ferment sugars which produce CO2 and this is what causes the bread to rise.

However in the modern day mass production of bread relying purely on the natural enzymes is not enough. For example, on such a large scale the quality of the flour varies and is not good enough to produce large quantities of bread. Therefore more enzymes are used as supplements in the process.

The enzymes used include; xlanase, ?-amylase, protease, glucose oxidase, and lipase. These enzymes are added into the dry flour and begin to work once the water is added to make the dough.

These supplements allow a better handling of dough and a control of the end characteristics such as taste and crumb texture.

The process of adding enzymes during bread making has to be a very careful one, just a slight variation can cause “detrimental” effects on the end product. For example, adding too much of an enzyme can result in bread that doesn’t rise, or bread that is too sticky and damages machinery.

“Brightly coloured sticky notes are an expensive nightmare for recycling plants.”

The post-it notes that are used in so many offices, school, homes and many other places are a major problem for recycling plants.

The small globs of glue that are used on them are causing machinery to “gum” up. Normally, strong solvents are used to break down the glue, but these are harmful to the environment and are not pleasant to use.

However, enzymes are now being used to tackle this problem. It has been discovered that Esterase enzymes can attack the glue and un-clog the recycling plants. This means that recycling plants don’t have to waste time stopping machinery, nor do that have to worry about damaging the environment.

Enzymes are also proving incredibly useful in the field of medicine. They can be used in wound therapy, to diagnose disease, to aid digestion. They can be used in drug manufacture and as anti-inflammatory reagents.

“ELISA was first described in 1971, and since then has become an important in diagnosing viruses.”

ELISA stands for Enzyme Linked Immunoassay and is used for analytical tests. An example of the use of ELISA is for diabetics to test the amount of glucose in their bloodstream.

There are two components of ELISA:

1. The Solid Phase: Strips or polystyrene beads coated with an appropriate antibody or antigen. This is called the “Microtitre Plates”

2. Conjugate: An appropriate enzyme-labelled ligand (an ion or molecule joined to a metal atom by a dative covalent bond). This ligand is usually an antibody. This antibody is normally specific for the organism or antigen of interest.

The basic principles of ELISA are; Antigens that have been made soluable in a buffer can be coated onto a plastic surface such as polystyrene (this can be done with or without an antibody). When a serum is added, antibodies can attach to the antigen on the solid phase.

The presence or absence of these antibodies can be demonstrated with the help of a conjugate. The antibodies are joined to an enzyme, an example would be peroxidase.

The addition of a substrate, such as HRPO, will then detect the amount of bound conjugate by a degree of colour produced, this can then be quantified.

So enzymes have many important uses in the modern world. Especially in the fields of medicine and industry. Most of us take them for granted, but without them many things that we have, use and need could not work.

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