Friday, November 9, 2012

Easy Enzyme Experiments Anyone Can Do

Three catalase enzyme experiments.  More bubbles demonstrate more catalase enzymes. On the left, catalase extract from beef muscle, middle beef kidney, right beef liver.  Liver has the most catalase, second most is kidney, and muscle has hardly any at all. 
The easy enzyme experiments have been some of the most popular posts on this blog so I'll be posting a summary of them today.  These experiments really are easy enough for nearly anyone to do and to use to demonstrate the amazing work these molecules do.  Unfortunately, most enzyme experimentation is extremely difficult and must be done in a science lab.  I have come across several though that are rather simple and I am always looking for more simple enzyme experiments to post here.  

Enzymes, you can't see them, but you can't live without them.  Some scientists have seen the rough outline of larger enzymes using scanning electron microscopes, but they still haven't actually seen one.  In-fact, no one has ever seen one, they are simply too small.  So how do we know they exist?  Molecular scientists use special complex scientific techniques to determine the shapes and structures of enzymes without actually looking at them directly.  More practically though, we see proof of enzymes every single day, every single second.  The very fact that we, or anything else is alive, is owed to these amazing molecules.  Without these molecules hardly any of the chemical reactions that take place in our body would ever happen.  And without these chemical reactions, life would never happen.  All of the cells in our bodies are loaded with dozens of enzymes of different types, all making life possible.   A few of these enzymes are easy for us to extract and observe the work they do very clearly.  Anyone can do these experiments with some basic equipment, even in a kitchen.  

One of the most common and easiest enzymes to work with is catalase.  This enzyme is found in potatoes, spinach, and liver in high concentrations.  To extract it all you have to do is blend some of these materials up with some water.  Catalase functions to convert hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.  This protects the body from the harmful effects of hydrogen peroxide, which is commonly produced as a metabolic by-product. You can conduct your own catalase experiments simply by adding hydrogen peroxide to your extract.

Another great and easy enzyme experiment is that of rennet and cheese making.  Cheese is actually made by the enzyme called rennet.  You can buy rennet off of Amazon, follow the directions that come with the packet, and make cheese in the process.  Without rennet, we would only have a few different types of cheeses.  

A very practical enzyme to our digestion is protease.  Without this enzyme it would be impossible for us to digest protein of any kind.  Protease can be found naturally in fresh pineapple, or in meat tenderizer (which contains protease found in pineapple).  The reason fresh pineapple cannot be used in making gelatin is because the protease in the pineapple digests the gelatin protein, preventing the gelatin from solidifying.  Pineapple or mango protease are also placed in pills that aid digestion.  

Lastly, amylase is another protein that is important to carbohydrate digestion.  By mixing ground-up crackers with spit (where amylase is typically found), you can actually witness how your spit digests carbohydrates.  

If you know of other simple enzyme experiments, please let me know.  

No comments:

Post a Comment