Enzymes are protein molecules that act as catalysts for chemical reactions in the body, and they’re vital for keeping processes running smoothly. Most enzymes lose their structure and stop functioning – a process known as denaturing – when they reach the limits of their optimal ranges of temperature, salinity and ph. Extremophiles, however, have specialised enzymes, known as extremozymes, which are as well adapted to extreme environments as they are. For example, thermophile enzymes are compact, with a tightly wound structure to ensure they hold their shape under the effects of high temperature. Extremozymes have been harnessed for use in industrial processes. While most enzymes can’t cope with the harsh conditions, those derived from extremophiles work well and catalyse reactions to make the processes more efficient. Used in the manufacture of products from food to fuel, the global market for industrial enzymes has rapidly grown to billions of dollars.
Industrial enzymes have become big business