With Iraq suspected to be renewing its production of deadly nerve agents such as sarin and VX, the need for an effective counter-measure looms ever larger. An enzyme called Phosphotriesterase is one natural remedy; it breaks down chemical weapons such as sarin, soman and VX.

Phosphotriesterase enzyme molecule, SOURCE: Scripps Research Institute

Professor Frank Raushel of the Department of Chemistry is researching ways to make the enzyme break down chemical weapons more efficiently. By genetically and chemically altering Phosphotriesterase, Raushel and his collaborators aim to make the enzyme more selective and faster as it goes to work on lethal chemical weapons. Potential applications for the mutant enzymes: fire-fighting foams and protective clothing. Their chief benefit may be in detoxifying a site after a chemical attack such as the 1995 sarin attack in a Tokyo subway. The enzyme also breaks down insecticides.


Contact: Mark Minton, Communications Specialist, Texas A&M College of Science; 979-862-1237; mminton@science.tamu.edu

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