New artificial enzyme safer for nature

October 22, 2009

Perilous and polluting industrial processes can be made safer with enzymes. But only a short range of enzymes have been available for the chemical industry.

Recently a group of researchers at The Department of Chemistry at University of Copenhagen succeeded in producing an artificial that points the way to enzymes tailor-made for any application.

With their group leader, Professor Mikael Bols, Ph.d. students Jeanette Bjerre and Thomas Hauch Fenger are publishing details of their breakthrough in recognized international ChemBioChem (15/2009) under the title "Cyclodextrin Aldehydes are Oxidase Mimics"

Artificial enzymes for unnatural tasks

An enzyme unlike any seen in nature, this new one distinguishes itself in three ways. Its effect is powerful. It's easy to produce. And the researchers from the Copenhagen labs are the first to fashion an enzyme that is capable of speeding up oxidizing processes. With the simple and cheap compound no less.

Oxidizing processes are considered one of the cornerstones of all chemical production. From paint to pharmaceuticals. But traditional oxidizers have a reputation for being dangerously unrefined. That's why enzymes are desirable and tailor made ones doubly so. For one thing they can be designed to be unbelievably specific. But even more important is their ability to operate under humane conditions, unlike their traditional chemical counterparts, which often need high temperatures, extreme pressure and corrosive surroundings.

New tool in the box

Until recently enzymes were exclusively found in micro organisms in the wild. But the challenges faced by and chemical corporations are hardly comparable. So industries have been short on eco friendly alternatives to chemicals. The new artificial enzyme from Copenhagen adds a whole new class of tools to the toolbox of the chemists. And it's fast. Though not yet fast enough.

Natural enzymes typically speed up reactions by as much as 1 million times. The new enzyme from the Bols-group will speed up reactions by no more than 10.000 times. But that's not to be sneezed at says professor Mikael Bols.

"We have been developing these substances since year 2000. When we succeeded with the first enzyme, it's reaction speed was only multiplied by 25, so I think it's fair to speak of a breakthrough here", says the professor.

As the new enzymes inch closer to the natural reaction-times, they they are bound to become increasingly important for sensitive processes like those of the pharmaceutical industry.

Source: University of Copenhagen

Explore further: Birth of an enzyme

Related Stories

Birth of an enzyme

March 24, 2008

Mankind triumphed in a recent 'competition' against nature when scientists succeeded in creating a new type of enzyme for a reaction for which no naturally occurring enzyme has evolved. This achievement opens the door to ...

Outlook bright for hydrogen biofuel cell

October 24, 2005

British scientists say simple, cost-effective hydrogen biofuel cells could be developed from electrodes coated with a bacterial enzyme to oxidize hydrogen.

A Change for the better: Improving properties of enzymes

September 24, 2009

An international team of scientists from the Czech Republic, Germany and Japan have developed a new method for improving the properties of enzymes. The method has potential for wide application in the chemical, medicinal ...

'Designer enzymes' created by chemists

March 19, 2008

Chemists from UCLA and the University of Washington have succeeded in creating "designer enzymes," a major milestone in computational chemistry and protein engineering.

Recommended for you

Sea sponges stay put with anchors that bend but don't break

June 22, 2017

Sea sponges known as Venus' flower baskets remain fixed to the sea floor with nothing more than an array of thin, hair-like anchors made essentially of glass. It's an important job, and new research suggests that it's the ...

Custom-built molecule shows promise as anti-cancer therapy

June 22, 2017

Scientists at the University of Bath funded by Cancer Research UK have custom-built a molecule which stops breast cancer cells from multiplying in laboratory trials, and hope it will eventually lead to a treatment for the ...

How protons move through a fuel cell

June 22, 2017

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ...

New catalyst paves way for carbon neutral fuel

June 21, 2017

Australian scientists have paved the way for carbon neutral fuel with the development of a new efficient catalyst that converts carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air into synthetic natural gas in a 'clean' process using solar ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.