The Use Of Enzymes in Medicine

The application of enzymes in medicine (or enzymology) is a constantly evolving industry. This is mainly due to huge improvements in technology (recombinant DNA) and genetic engineering in recent years (Fullick, 2000). Enzymes form a critical part of understanding diseases and their causes, as enzyme deficiencies are often central to many genetic diseases. Some harmful bacteria are also more effective due to their enzyme activity (www. enzymes. co. uk /answer_medicine. htm). Medically used enzymes can be used to diagnose, treat and cure many medical problems or dysfunctions.

Enzymes are a hugely important part of our own metabolic pathways and biological processes, but can also be used in an industrial format. Often referred to as organic catalysts, they allow metabolic reactions to occur and control these reactions in such a way that the amount of products produced can comfortably meet the needs of the cells. Enzymes are specific to certain biochemical reactions. The first application of enzymes in medicine I am going to examine is Analysis. Glucose oxidase and peroxidase are the most frequently used enzymes for analysis.

These two enzymes are immobilised (entrapped in an inert insoluble matrix in the process of immobilisation) onto a cellulose fibre pad. These pads forms the basis of Clinistix and Diastix. Glucose analysis (biosensors) allows quick, sensitive and specific data to be collected which can be assayed using a quantitative chart, which states what glucose concentration is suggested by the O-olivine pad. This advancement in medicine has been life changing for diabetics as it has allowed themselves monitor their own blood or urine glucose levels (Pickering, 1994).

Although not for analytical purposes immobilised enzymes are also used to improve the lives of lactose-intolerant adults who suffer from abdominal pains and diarrhoea. As milk is an important dietary component those who are lactose intolerant often still wish to drink it. Therefore, scientists use immobilised enzymes to create lactose-free milk. Sterilised skimmed milk is placed in a column packed with immobilised yeast lactase. The immobilised enzymes hydrolyse the lactose to form glucose and galactose and therefore produced is lactose-free milk.

Another analytical test in Medicine is used to detect antibodies particular to a certain infection. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA’s) use chromogenic substances to produce a signal, usually a fluorescent colour (en. wikipedia. org). ELISA’s accurately measure the amount of a substance present in a serum or substance. The enzymes act as amplifiers to the sometimes minimal enzyme linked antibodies present. The 5 main steps in ELISA tests are: * Prepare an antigen bound plate Apply the enzyme-linked antibodies and let them bind to the substance * Remove any unbound antibodies by washing the plate * Apply a chemical, converted by the enzyme into a fluorescent signal. * If the plate produces a fluorescent signal then the substance was present. The ELISA test is often the first stage in screening for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) (Curry, 2002).

This allows sufferers to be treated more quickly and will often prolong their lives. Similar tests can also be performed to test for the presence of certain enzymes. For xample, a doctor may prescribe a test for liver enzymes in the bloodstream if he/she suspects a damaged liver may be the concern. The second application of enzymes I shall examine is pharmaceuticals. The Pharmaceutical industry has begun to see the advantages of enzymes and more and more products are placed on the open market every month. Minor medical problems can also be treated with enzymes. An example is the cleaning of teeth and dentures.

Papain has a well known use; to remove stains from teeth (Pickering, 1994). Companies such as Novozymes (www. ovozymes. com) are now producing enzymes which can clean not only dentures (EverlaseTM 6. 0 T) but also contact lenses (Clear-Lens(r) Pro), by using a highly purifies protease. Proteases are also used as anti-inflammatory reagents, an example of which is ibuprofen. The protease inhibits the production of prostaglandin’s, which are messenger molecules in the process of inflammation (en. wikipedia. org). Therefore, when inflammation is painful, anti-inflammatory drugs can prevent the patient feeling the effect as the pain is not relayed to the brain.

The highly complex structure of enzymes makes them ideal targets for many drugs (Blanchflower, 2003). Enzymes, such as amylase, trypsin and chymotrypsin, can also aid digestion for those who have been discovered to have a less effective digestive system. Having a poor digestive system can result in continuous stomach upsets and may result in the body not receiving desired proteins. Digestive enzyme supplements add to the amount of naturally occurring digestive enzymes and therefore promote good digestion and improve nutrient absorption.

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