EXTREME LIFE AND ENZYMES
Research has uncovered new micro-organisms that not only survive but thrive under extreme conditions. Dubbed ‘extremophiles’, they are found in the most diverse places on Earth- from extremely high to low temperatures, pressures, salinities and pH (van den Burg, 2003). These organisms have unique capabilities that allow them to produce biocatalysts (or enzymes) that sustain their lives where no other organisms are able to. As these organisms have these unique characteristics, various industries are developing ways in which the ‘extremoenzymes’ of these ‘extremophiles’ can be used to our economic advantage (van den Burg, 2003; Breithaupt, 2001).
Industries involved in food processes, chemical processes, pharmaceutical processes and many others are continually searching for new environmentally friendly ways of carrying out the- often harmful- methods used to make their products (Breithaupt, 2001). Scientists have turned to nature in order to find answers to these problems and they found the Enzyme. Enzymes are protein catalysts which assist in performing reactions within the cells of organisms. However, not all enzymes can withstand the high industrial processes due to their instability and narrow substrate ranges (Breithaupt, 2001).
As a result, scientists have focused on the sub-group of enzymes, extremophiles, which are efficient, specific and their reaction ranges are far better for synthesis of industrial products as compared to man-made catalysts (Breithaupt).There are various forms of extremophiles that are exploitable in various industrial processes. Thermophiles, Psychrophiles, Halophiles, Alkaliphiles and Acidophiles are some groups of extremophiles that have received attention recently (van den Burg). These sub-groups of the sub-group of enzymes are unique in their adaptations. For example, thermophilic extremophiles are able to function under fluctuating temperatures and are highly useful when vying to improve the...