Altapress: Altai scientists have invented a unique method of oil purification using genetic engineering

16 October 2023 Department of Information and Media Communication
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Scientists from the Research Center “Prombiotech” and the Russian-American Anti-Cancer Center of Altai State University are participating in a unique project, which has no analogues in Russia. They obtained an enzyme – recombinant phospholipase C, which can be used in industry for refining vegetable oils, in cheese making, and in the production of biofuels. Maxim Shirmanov, a junior researcher, told Altapress about this project.

Practical Science

Maxim Shirmanov has been working at the Research Center “Prombiotech” since 2016. His professional interests include industrial biotechnology, applied microbiology and microbial drug production technology.

“I do not only fundamental science,” he notes. “My work is also of applied significance.”

Together with scientists from the Russian-American Anti-Cancer Center, the Prombiotech team began working on a project to develop a producer and production technology for recombinant phospholipase C.

The project received a grant from the Governor of Altai Krai. Additionally, the team is also supported by an industrial partner.

Maxim Shirmanov presented part of his research at the IV Russian Microbiological Congress, which was held in Tomsk from September 24 to 29. There he gave a presentation on the topic: “The influence of cultivation time on the activity of recombinant phospholipase C obtained in the Bacillus mojavensis system.”

Safe product

— In simple terms, what is recombinant phospholipase C? — I asked pronouncing the name with difficulty.

“This is a recombinant protein that is produced by genetic engineering,” the scientist begins to explain. “Bacterial phospholipase C can act as a reagent for studying the structure of cell membranes, for example, erythrocytes.” It is widely used in science and industry. The enzyme itself is a relatively small (28 kDa) protein that can withstand heating up to 100 degrees for a short time.

An enzyme is a complex protein compound, RNA (ribozyme) or their complexes that significantly accelerate chemical reactions in living systems.

Protein is most in demand in the food industry. It is used in the refining of most oils (soybean, palm, sunflower, rapeseed and others), cheese ripening, baking industry, mayonnaise production and in the formation of the structural and mechanical properties of milk.

Domestic market

Today, there is no domestic recombinant phospholipase C in Russia. Currently, Verenium's product Purifine™ is used to produce refined vegetable oil.

Altai scientists note that “enzymatic” refining is much safer for the environment than, say, chemical methods.

“In production, alkaline cleaning is most often used. However, alkali is a treacherous substance and can be hazardous to the health of employees and subsequently to the environment. For this reason, the use of an enzyme can significantly facilitate the work of industrialists,” says Maxim Shirmanov.

- And how soon will we be able to try oil purified in a new way?

— It’s difficult to say. The project is now at the completion stage. Several patent applications have been prepared and submitted, and the results have been published in several publications. The prototype has been sent for industrial testing.

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