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Medicine Improves Nylon

October 25, 2012

Cancer research may have just solved a big problem for the nylon industry.



Copying cancer to make nylon. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The massive global nylon industry ought to take a cue from cancer.  This according to a report in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, by Duke University geneticist Zach Reitman and his colleagues.  He explains that industries currently spend billions of dollars a year to make adipic acid, an essential building block of nylon.  And they burn lots of fossil fuels to do it.  Reitman’s team studies how brain tumors change the function of enzymes – molecules that can convert one chemical to another.

ZACHARY REITMAN (Duke University):

We took the effect that cancer had on a certain enzyme, and applied it to another enzyme.

And they found it could be used in a crucial step in producing adipic acid from cheap sugars – one that prior research hadn’t solved.  Reitman says industries could use their findings to make nylon in a much cheaper and more environmentally friendly way.   I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Adipic acid, the building block of nylon. (Wikipedia)