Washington, Sep 24: Working on a cancer cure, researchers have discovered a molecule which would facilitate ‘greening’ of nylon production.
“In our lab, we study genetic changes that cause healthy tissues to go bad and grow into tumours. The goal of this research is to understand how the tumours develop in order to design better treatments,” says Zachary J. Reitman, research associate at Duke University Medical Centre, who led the study.
“As it turns out, a bit of information we learned in that process paves the way for a better method to produce nylon,” adds Reitman, the journal “Nature Chemical Biology” reports.
Nylon is a ubiquitous material, used in carpeting, upholstery, auto parts, apparel and other products. A key component for its production is adipic acid, which is one of the most widely used chemicals in the world, according to a Duke statement.
Currently, adipic acid is produced from fossil fuel, and the pollution released from the refinement process contributes significantly to global warming. One of the most promising approaches for eco-friendly adipic acid production uses a series of enzymes as an assembly line to convert cheap sugars into adipic acid.
However, one critical enzyme in the series, called a 2-hydroxyadipate dehydrogenase, has never been produced, leaving a missing link in the assembly line.
In 2008 and 2009, researchers, including Hai Yan, Duke professor of pathology, identified a genetic mutation in brain tumours that alters the function of an enzyme known as an isocitrate dehydrogenase, the missing link. They used it to create the green adipic acid, through a series of steps.
Yan, senior study author, said: “This is the result of a cancer researcher thinking outside the box to produce a new enzyme and create a precursor for nylon production.” Reitman and Yan co-authored the study with Bryan D. Choi, Ivan Spasojevic, Darell D. Bigner and John H. Sampson.