The potential use of enzymes in medicine and related fields are very large, at present the number of applications grows. Since the medical applications pharmaceutical and cover a wide range of subjects, is conveniently divided into three major areas of interest: enzyme therapy, analytical uses and production of pharmaceutical compounds.
Unlike other industrial uses of enzymes, medical and pharmaceutical applications thereof, generally require small amounts of highly purified enzymes. In part, this reflects the fact that for a enzyme be effective, should only be amended or compounds of interest contained in a complex physiological fluids or tissues.
This form of therapy, based on the administration of a specific enzyme to a patient, to produce a progressive improvement in the same, the main problem with this method is the body’s immune response which inactivates the compound incorporated. Also, if the target of an enzyme or a product obtained by enzymatic methods is administered to a patient, it is clear that the formula must contain the smallest possible amounts of foreign material to avoid side effects.
Currently about one hundred fifty metabolic diseases have been attributed to specific enzyme defects. In several cases, the alteration is due to complete lack of the enzyme, while in others, the cause is the replacement for an isoenzyme partially inactive.
In theory, once known the defect, it should be possible to deliver the missing enzyme to patients and alleviate or eliminate symptoms of the disorder. Attempts to treat metabolic diseases inherited by the administration of exogenous enzymes have been only partially successful. The main problem is that the enzyme is incorporated into the body tends to accumulate in the liver and spleen.
The fact that the liposomes tend to accumulate preferentially in the liver is the most serious drawback to the use of this pathway in enzyme therapy. Similarly, other management methods also lead to an accumulation of enzymes in the liver and spleen, while too little of them, reach other organs. Genetic alterations such as cystic fibrosis elapses combined with pancreatic insufficiency, in these cases the pancreatic ducts are blocked and enzymes that play a vital role in normal digestion does not reach the intestine, leading to clinical symptoms of malnutrition.
Oral administration of pancreatic enzymes suitably protected against denaturation by stomach acid, helps to develop a normal digestion and thus adequate nutrition.
Control of neoplasms:
Intravenous administration of L-asparaginase for the treatment of certain neoplasms that affect blood cells has been used successfully, especially in the case of leucemia lymphocytic leukemia. After treatment with this enzyme collected data indicate a complete remission of the disease by up to 60% of patients. Other studies suggest that this enzyme may be useful in treating other cancers such as leukemia and related diseases.
The mechanism for the use of L-asparaginase in acute lymphocytic leukemia is based on the observation that certain tumor cells have a nutritional requirement for L-asparagine exogenous, while normal cells are able to synthesize this amino acid in situ.
Consequently, intravenous administration of the enzyme decreases blood levels of L-asparagine, depriving the abnormal cells of a vital nutrient and causing regression of the neoplasm. It was also suggested that the relatively high levels of L-aspartate produced in the enzymatic reaction can be toxic to tumor cells. A further advantage of this treatment is the high therapeutic index of enzymes, compared with alternative treatment that uses anti-leukemic chemicals.
The use given to the enzymes, initially as biological catalysts has been changing and diversified to be applied in various industries, today expands its usefulness in medicine, in specific areas of laboratory reagents exclusively for patients.