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Technical Service
What are enzymes
TIME : 2013-08-06

> What are enzymes?

Enzymes are produced by all living organisms and their purpose is to start chemical reactions.  The three dimensional structure of an enzyme is composed of amino acids which places it in the protein family of organic compounds.  Enzymes are therefore specialized proteins which naturally enable and accelerate chemical reactions in all living organisms.  Many enzymatic reactions break down larger molecules into smaller ones.  An example of this reaction is food digestion which is a role enzymes play in all living organisms.

> Are enzymes safe?

Yes.  For thousands of years enzymes have been used to make beer, bread, cheese and wine. In the last 30 years enzymes have enjoyed a large expansion into the laundry and dishwashing detergent market. Other uses include: agriculture, animal feed, chemical production, cosmetics, dental hygiene, dietary supplements, food, leather treatment, medicine, odor control, pharmaceutical, pulp & paper, textiles, water treatment and the list grows on.  Chances are you have all ready used products which contain enzymes or have been manufactured using enzymes or both!

> How do enzymes work?

The specific mechanisms responsible for explaining enzymatic activity are very complex. A simplified answer would be that enzymes lower the activation energy of a reaction. This lower level dramatically accelerates the reaction. As a result enzymes massively increase reaction times. Reactions which may normally take a year, could take as little as a few seconds to complete! Some reactions might not ever take place without the right enzyme. One might say enzymes are the facilitators of Mother Nature’s life cycle.

> Where do enzymes come from?

Enzymes are naturally produced by every living thing. Biotechnology allows for the commercial production of enzymes using a process known as fermentation.  In the fermentation process the living conditions of certain microorganisms are optimized and carefully controlled producing enzymes. Specific enzymes are then harvested, isolated, filtered and stabilized.

> Are enzymes alive?

No.  They are amino acids which are a specific type of protein. 

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