Research Highlight

Enzyme mop

doi:10.1038/nindia.2009.159 Published online 24 June 2009

An Indian research team has trapped keratinase, an enzyme secreted by a bug, on magnetic nanoparticles1. This industrially important enzyme holds promise in replacing toxic chemicals in the leather industry.

The trapped enzyme is far more active than the free enzyme and plays a vital role in removing hair from animal skin.

The researchers used the bacteria Bacillus subtilis, which secretes the enzyme, to trap it on iron oxide magnetic nanoparticles grown in poly (ethylene glycol) matrix. The crystalline average domain size for the polymer-assisted magnetic nanoparticles (MNP) without and with enzyme was found to be 9.57 and 14.56 nm, respectively. Compared to free keratinase, the bound one showed excellent stability when exposed to heat.

Reusability of immobilised enzymes is an important consideration for their practical application. No significant loss in the activity of bound keratinase was recorded after being reused five times.

The bound enzyme led to selective dehairing of goat-skin without damaging the tissue underneath.

"The trapped enzyme system looks promising to be used in removing hair in leather factories," says lead researcher Niranjan Karak. The enzyme-MNP system reflects a multifaceted, environmentally clean hair-shaving technology, he adds.

The authors of this work are from: Advanced Polymer and Nanomaterial Laboratory, Department of Chemical Sciences and Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Tezpur University, Tezpur, Assam, India.


  1. Konwarh, R. et al. Polymer-assisted iron oxide magnetic nanoparticle immobilized keratinase. Nanotechnology. 20, 225107 (2009)