Enzymes are naturally occurring bio-catalysts found in living organisms. They facilitate many biochemical reactions in the body. With the advancement of technology, these enzymes are isolated for human use for various purposes.
- In medicine
- In the food industry
- In the leather industry
- Clothing and textile industry.
The enzyme reaction can be within the cell cytoplasm, nucleus, or even outside the cell.
They require a specific set of conditions for efficient function. These conditions include optimal temperature, pH, the concentration of substrate, etc.
So we can see many enzymes in the list of medicines prescribed by doctors today.
They are extracted and isolated from plants & animals and then stored for future use.
But how come they are stable outside the body?
They are so stable due to a process, namely enzyme immobilization technique.
But due to growth in population and a huge demand, they are also manufactured by the principle of recombinant DNA technology.
Due to many possible applications, the enzymes meant for one purpose by nature are exploited for additional uses.
The current uses of enzymes include health care, industries of food, cloth, leather, etc.
Applications of enzymes in medicine
Medical uses of enzymes are quite large like
- To treat enzyme-related disorders.
- To assist in metabolism.
- To assist in drug delivery.
- To diagnose & detect diseases.
- Also, during the manufacture of medicines.
1. Enzyme used to treat disorders
Enzymes are used in three cases here
a) To break the internal blood clots.
b) To dissolve the hardening of walls of blood vessels.
c) To dissolve the wound swelling to promote healing.
There are chances of blood clot formation in some disorders like low blood pressure or head or spinal injuries. These clots lead to obstruction of blood flow to the target organ. This can be life-threatening if it is in the brain or heart, requiring a constant oxygen and energy supply. The only way out then is to dissolve the clots.
These clots are usually removed by dissolution by enzymes that can break them.
Examples of such enzymes like Streptokinase, Urokinase.
Similarly, when there is atherosclerosis, hardening and thickening of blood vessel walls. This can lead to heart problems if untreated. The best way out at this junction is to decrease the fat intake and dissolve the formed thickenings. Enzymes like serratiopeptidase and other work well.
For wound healing, the swelling formed might be painful and tend to form pus. Enzymes trypsin, chymotrypsin, serratiopeptidase are used to dissolve the swelling.
2. Enzymes used to assist digestion
In old or geriatric patients, the digestive capacity is low due to insufficient secretion of digestive enzymes. Hence their digestive system cannot digest food materials efficiently.
In such cases, they can experience malnutrition, constipation, bloating, etc. To aid digestion, enzymes like Papain are administered orally after food for easier digestion.
3. Enzymes used to assist drug delivery
Some drugs need to penetrate deeper tissues for better action. Some enzymes are used along with drugs in intra-muscular injection forms to help properly penetrate tissues. One such enzyme is Hyaluronidase.
This is a natural human enzyme present in human sperm to help sperm penetrate uterine tissue and fertilize with ova. Here the same enzyme is manufactured by rDNA technology and administered along with drugs to enable efficient drug delivery to the target site.
4. Enzymes to diagnose disorders
Enzymes of the liver, kidney, skeletal muscle, heart, etc., leak into the blood during related disorders. Measuring the corresponding enzyme levels for their presence in high or low blood levels indicates the specific disorder.
Ex: Creatine kinase for muscle weakness and injury.
5. Enzymes used in the manufacture of medicines
Immobilized enzymes are used to manufacture many drugs and anti-biotic. This is possible as enzymes convert the pro-drug molecules to drugs or starting material to drugs.
Also, steroidal drugs are manufactured by enzyme action on plant steroids.
6. Enzymes used in toothpaste
Enzymes of papaya and pineapple are used in toothpaste. They are found to remove the stain on teeth to give white and sparkling teeth.
Refer to the application of immobilized enzymes for details.
Industrial enzymes and their applications
Enzymes are used in few industries for different purposes like product improvement, ease of production, etc.
Enzymes in the food industry
Uses of enzymes in the food industry are to process carbohydrates, proteins & fats. The chief enzymes in food processing include
1) Amylase, lactases, cellulases are enzymes used to break complex sugars into simple sugars. They are used to mainly breakdown starch and cellulose into simple sugars like glucose. Lactase is an enzyme used to break lactose sugars from foods as lactose can be intolerant to some people.
2) Pectinase, like enzymes that act on hard pectin, is used in fruit juice manufacture. Pectinase breaks pectin making juice less viscous.
3) Lipase enzymes act on lipids to break them into fatty acids and glycerol. This can be used in the baking industry. Yet fatty acids and glycerol obtained can be used in making soaps.
Applications of enzymes in the leather industry:
The leather is obtained from the skin of animals. After being extracted, the leather becomes hard due to the denaturation of proteins and fats. To obtain smooth and soft leather, one needs to remove the skin’s hair and these proteins and fats between the leather. This can be done by using enzymes like proteases and lipases.
Role of enzymes in cloth or textile industry
Cloth or textile is made of mostly cotton, wool, or synthetic polymers. Natural cotton fabric is not as smooth and glossy. To give them a smoothness and glossy appearance, enzymes like cellulose are used. Further, the fabric size or thread thickness is controlled by treating these amylase enzymes.
Catalase is used to remove any hydrogen peroxide residues after bleaching.
Enzymes in detergent and washing (household enzymes)
Clothes get soiled by stains of protein, oil, or other substances. To remove these hard stains besides lather forming soap, some enzymes are incorporated in detergents.
Protease enzymes are used to remove stains of protein nature like blood, sweat, etc.
Lipases are used to remove stains of grease, oils, butter, etc.
Amylase is an enzyme which can break carbohydrate stains like that of chocolate, curries, etc.