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Applications of Extremophiles

Applications of Extremophiles
Figure: Microorganism
1.Application of extremophiles in research medicine
Extremophilic enzymes have become the model system to study enzyme evolution, enzyme stability, action mechanism, protein structure-function relationship and biocatalysis under extreme condition. Few important applications of extremophiles in research and medicine are as follows:
a)The term extremozyme refers to the enzyme from extremophiles microorganisms. One of the prototypes of these biological proteins that has found its way into common everyday use in diagnostic research laboratories worldwide is Taq DNA polymerase. The enzyme is isolated from bacterium Thermus aquatics. This enzyme is heat stable at 95, ideal for use in polymerase chain reaction. The enzyme’s heat stability makes such reaction efficient enough to be possible on a routine basis by reducing the need for adding extra polymerase due to the reaction.
More recently, other thermostable polymerases, each of with different advantages for PCR technique have become available. One of these, Pfu polymerase (isolated from hyperthermophile Pyrococcus furiosus) has a higher replication fidelity than Taq DNA polymerase. PCR technique is constantly being refined to diagnose a wide range of viral, bacterial, and fungal diseases in human and animals. Such assays allow qualification of viruses at the level where they would be undetectable by other techniques as well as molecular genotyping of different strains.
b) Close control of blood glucose is essential to avoid the long-term adverse consequences of elevated blood glucose including neuropathies, blindness and other consequences. Non-invasive measurements of blood glucose have been a long standing research goal. Such a capability would immediately allow a development of the variety of devices for diabetic health care including continuous painless glucose monitoring, control of an insulin pump and warning systems for hyper and hypo glycemia conditions. At present, the only reliable method to measure blood glucose is by a finger stick and subsequent glucose measurement typically by glucose oxidase. This procedure is painful and even the most complaint individuals with good understanding and motivation for glucose control are not willing to finger stick themselves more than a few times per day. A thermostable glucokinase from the thermophilic organism, Bacillus stearothermophilus, was studied for use as glucose sensor and glucose assay is quick by this method.
The enzyme glucodehydrogenase from the thermoacidophilic archaeon, Thermoplasma acidophilus, is also used for glucose sensing.
c) Measurement of sodium and potassium in the blood are the routine part of clinic blood analysis. It would be valuable to have simple methods for rapid testing especially for potassium which is measured during hypertensive screening. A variety of fluorescence probes has been developed that respond to sodium or potassium. However, measurements of these ions in the blood are particularly different and the sensing of sodium using the enzyme pyruvate kinase from Bacillus acidocaldarius overcomes this problem.
2.Application of extremophiles in industries
In particular enzymes from thermophiles and hyperthermophiles possess a great potential for biotechnological applications due to their higher resistance not only to temperature but also to chemicals, organic solvents and extreme pH values. Both extremophiles derived enzymes and the whole microorganisms are exploitable. Thermophiles have yielded stable α-amylase for starch hydrolysis, xylanase for paper bleaching and protease for food processing, baking, brewing and detergent purpose. Cellulose can be used for the treatment of juices, color-brightening in detergents and treating cellulose containing biomass and probes to improve their digestibility and nutritional quality. Alcaliphilic Bacillus strains have been isolated to produce enzymes appropriate for laundary and dish-washing detergents. Fabric processing can also benefit from extremophiles enzymes. A thermostable and alcalistable protease enzyme is used to improve wool properties and improve dye penetration.
Psychrophiles are a potential source of suitable enzymes for use in biosensors as well as polyunsaturated fatty acids for the pharmaceutical industries. Similarly, halophiles are being exploited as the source of carotene compatible solutes, glycerols, and surfactants for pharmaceutical use. Extremophilic microorganisms may also comprise a large reservoir of the novel therapeutic agent. For example extremophiles extracts were found to have activity against some Candida and Aspergillus species. Similarly, iron binding antifungal compounds called ‘pyochelin’ was isolated from novel species of Pseudomonas. Dried Dunaliella, a halophile is being investigated as a food supplement with anti-oxidant properties.

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