The team, which is led by Peter Pfromm, claim to have found a way of engineering enzymes to efficiently catalyze chemical reactions that can be used to create a range of ingredients, including the replication of scents for fragrances and perfumed products.
Nanotechnology saves the day
The method adopted by the research team uses enzyme-covered nanoparticles of fumed silica.
Put simply, the process developed by the researchers uses these enzymes to catalyze reactions in a controlled manner, while avoiding residues that may contaminate the product.
In the fragrance industry, ways of producing scent compounds that have the same perfume as their natural counterparts in mass quantities have been devised in the lab, but they are usually purely chemical based.
Method uses a natural process
However, according to the researchers, as the enzymes used in the process are natural and the scent produced is an exact replica of what is found in the plant, their product method can be thought of as natural.
In addition, it can be used to produce large quantities of the ingredient at relatively low cost, the researchers claim.
"That enzyme will do the job of making that rose scent out of two chemicals," Pfromm said. "Since the enzyme is derived from an organism, you end up with a product that is just as trustworthy as if you had taken a whole plant and extracted that molecule from it."
Developing long-lasting and effective natural fragrances has traditionally been a challenging task for perfumers, made all the more difficult by increasingly strict natural and organic certification programs.
The process can also be applied to a pharmaceutical products to help improve ingredient purity. Using chemical catalysts to produce active ingredients can often produce both the active form of the molecule, and its inactive twin form. According to Pfromm, enzymes are good at taking the reactants and making only one of the versions.
This method could help to improve the efficacy of a long list of active ingredients, particularly in the skin care category, where active ingredients have been the driving force behind more effective anti-aging treatments in recent years.
The researchers say that have had significant interest from a number of commercial entities in the technology.