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Catalysis Looks to the Future
(TCE), perchloroethylene, and trichloroethane have been used widely in the past as dry cleaning solvents and chemical degreasers for metal finishing and electronic applications. Surprising numbers of different oxidative enzyme systems have been identified that will attack TCE or other chlorinated aliphatics.
The technique of enzyme recruitment offers the prospect of producing single organisms that contain a spectrum of genetically engineered enzymes capable of degrading hazardous waste in the environment. Enzyme recruitment permits microorganisms to degrade new molecules and broadens the ability of microorganisms to attack synthetic organic chemicals. The idea of using enzymes that can reproduce themselves, can be made very cheaply, and can work under conditions that are often found in the environment may be one of the most effective means modern science can devise for treating and degrading hazardous waste, including organic chemicals synthesized by man to be stable under harsh conditions. The broad substrate specificity of certain enzymes offers the opportunity to use enzyme catalysis for improving and protecting the environment.