Potential Applications And Future Developments

Application of immobilized enzymes seems promising in several areas. These include the following: use of sulfhy-dryl oxidase to remove the cooked flavor in UHT milk, use of trypsin to control the development of an oxidized flavor in stored milk, and the dibittering of citrus juices by enzymes that alter the bitter component limonene. Immobilized proteases could be used for chill-proofing beer, for limited hydrolysis of soy proteins to improve functionality, and for continuous production of curd for cheese making. Immobilized yeasts could be used for brewing beer and immobilized bacteria for production of vinegar.

One area that is especially promising is the use of immobilized lipases for the chemical modification of fats. In-teresterification with free fatty acids or with other triglycerides using regiospecific lipases allows upgrading of cheap fats into more valuable fats such as cocoa butter substitutes. The immobilized enzyme could also be used to replace conventional chemical catalysts used in random in-teresterification. These processes have been well developed on the pilot scale, but the extent of commercial production is uncertain.

Primary obstacles to implementation of these applications are process economics and unfavorable enzyme characteristics such as inadequate stability. However, developments in molecular biology coupled with protein engineering promise to provide a second generation of enzymes whose properties will be designed with a particular process in mind. Greater stability toward heat, pH, and chemical dénaturants is likely, as is altered specificity. The ability of enzymes to work in organic solvents will undoubtedly be exploited for further transformation of lipids and synthesis of food additives. Use of multienzyme systems and of enzymes that require cofactor regeneration should also expand the list of potential applications. At the reactor level, a major breakthrough would result from the discovery of general methods for regenerating activity of immobilized enzymes.

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