Protein Engineering Products, Is it Halal?

By: Budiatman Satiawihardja 

Staff The Expert Of the Assessment Institute for Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics Indonesian Council of Ulama (LPPOM MUI) 

Lecturer of the Department of Food Technology, Faculty of Agricultural Technology, IPB University 

Protein engineering is a technique for modifying protein molecules to suit the purpose based on the desired properties.

The desired properties include stability at a specific temperature, oxidation, strength to heavy metals, stability to pH, and stability under certain conditions of enzyme properties. For example, specificity, increase in “turnover number,” and change in pH suitability; and of course, what halal auditors should not forget is their halalness. 

The halalness of engineered protein products depends on the source of the engineered protein and the enzymes involved in the engineering process. Changes in these properties tend to be related to the application conditions in the entire industry, as we can see in the Relationship of Protein Engineering Targets with Structure and Halalness Table 1). It may be seen in many cases of proteases, such as subtilisin, enzyme inhibitors, insulin, and other types of enzymes.

In some countries, specialized institutions for protein engineering have been established, such as the Cambridge Center for Protein Engineering (CCPE), Cambridge, UK; Center for Applied Protein Engineering (CAPE), Braunschweig, Germany; Danish Protein Engineering Research Centre, Aarhus (PERC), Odense, Copenhagen, Denmark; Laboratory for Protein Engineering (P-2000), Paris and Grenoble, France, and many more. 

As the person who first introduced protein engineering, Ulmer KM explained that to be widely used in the industrial world as a catalyst, a method must be developed to adapt protein properties to all industrial processes. In the book Protein Engineering Science, Ulmer explicitly describes the great potential of this technology in the industry, and it is quite interesting to reveal this potential at this time. 

Therefore, the purpose of this short article is to clarify its relation to the needs of the halal industry and its potential at this time. We will first distinguish protein engineering as a way of describing its relationship to structure and function. 

The relationship of structure (type of engineering) and function (purpose) can include aspects, as shown in Table 1, which presents protein engineering targets with several designs for their solution. Some of them are still interests that must be pursued. Protein design and engineering have several pre-conditions, both as an experimental strategy and in the use of the instrument. 

Table 1. The relationship of protein engineering targets with structure and halalness**)

*) Quoted from Hartley, 1986, with the addition of the column “halal” **) It is assumed that all the ingredients in this table are halal in origin and the enzymes involved in the engineering process are also halal enzymes. 

The protein gene to be changed must be managed first. Otherwise, it is not possible to work on site-mutagenesis. While on the one hand there are limitations in terms of mechanical or structural features. Three-dimensional structures or detailed models are needed. To obtain this requires knowledge and specialization and expensive equipment and skilled personnel. A number of possible ways have been tried, as shown in Table 1.

In addition, Arnold (2018) received a prestigious award for his findings in developing protein engineering to obtain the desired properties. Stability, the ability of proteins to work in extreme conditions such as temperatures that are too low or too high and a pH that is too acidic or basic are some of the desirable properties.

Proteins are molecules that speed up almost all reactions in the body of living things. Proteins that have this property are classified as enzymes. The question is how far the genetic engineering business in Indonesia has been involved in the efforts listed in Table 1.

The hope is that enough has been involved. The problem is, there is no coordination between research institutions or between researchers. Communication between researchers is necessary for the success of protein engineering research in Indonesia. (***)

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