What’s Up With Trypsin?

By: Prof. Khaswar Syamsu, Ph.D 

Chairman of Experts Team of LPPOM MUI 

Professor of the Department of Agricultural Industrial Technology IPB University 

Head of the Center for Halal Science Studies IPB University 

Recently, trypsin has become a trending topic in the media because it is thought to have originated from pig pancreas and was used in the manufacture of a brand of COVID-19 vaccine. What is trypsin that is being talked about and has become a polemic? 

In chemical or biochemical processes, catalysator are commonly used or abbreviated as catalysts. A catalyst is a substance that speeds up the rate of a chemical reaction at a certain temperature by lowering the activation energy of a reaction, without affecting the reaction product (product). Catalysts for general organic chemical or biochemical reactions are called biocatalysts or enzymes. 

Enzymes are biomolecules in the form of proteins that function as biocatalysts in a chemical reaction organic or biochemical reactions. In the process of halal certification of food, beverage, drug, and cosmetic products, several enzymes are often encountered, including amylase and protease enzymes. There is also a lipase enzyme. 

Amylase enzymes including amyl glucosidase or glucoamylase function to accelerate the hydrolysis reaction of the breakdown of starch (polysaccharides) into oligosaccharides, disaccharides, and ends in monosaccharides which are monomers of starch. This enzyme is used, for example, in the manufacture of maltodextrin and glucose syrup. The enzyme glucose isomerase is used to convert glucose syrup into fructose syrup. 

Protease enzymes function to accelerate the breakdown of proteins (polypeptides) into peptides and lead to amino acids which are monomers of protein. This enzyme, for example, is used in the breakdown of proteins into peptones and/or amino acids. 

In addition to the two enzymes above, there is another lipase enzyme that functions to accelerate the reaction of fat breakdown (triglycerides) into diglycerides, monoglycerides, and leads to fatty acids and glycerol which are components of glycerides. This enzyme, for example, is used in the manufacture of emulsifiers.

Based on the source, enzymes can come from plants, animals, and microbes. Popular sources of protease enzymes derived from plants include papain from papaya (sap) and bromelain from pineapple (tubules). While the popular protease enzymes derived from animals are rennin or chymosin in the manufacture of cheese derived from the stomach of calves, as well as pepsin which generally comes from the digestive system of pigs, and trypsin which generally comes from the pancreas of pigs. 

Industrially, enzymes are generally obtained from microorganisms because the growth of microorganisms is relatively much faster resulting in high productivity, and microorganisms can be engineered or modified to produce recombinant enzymes.

The enzyme rennin, for example, can also be made microbially and is referred to as the enzyme chymosin recombinant. Since the enzymes are proteins, then it can be made by genetic engineering by inserting genes from animal into microbes and the expressed by the microbe into a recombinant microbial enzyme. 

Trypsin which is a trending topic is a protease enzyme. Trypsin catalyzes the hydrolysis of peptide bonds in proteins so that they break down proteins which are polypeptides into peptides. This enzyme is widely used in biotechnological processes. The enzyme trypsin is found in the digestive system of mammals, generally from the pancreas of pigs. 

Several biotechnological products, including certain COVID-19 vaccines, use trypsin from pig pancreas at several steps upstream in the vaccine manufacturing process, namely in the preparation of virus hosts, making media master seed, and working seeds. Trypsin is not used in production media. Therefore, the presence of this pork element will not be detectable using PCR analysis of the final product. 

However, the involvement of the pig element can be seen from the tracing of the material used (material traceability). The COVID-19 vaccine which has been declared haram by the MUI Fatwa Commission, based on valid document searches, can be ascertained to use trypsin from pig pancreas, at least in one stage in the vaccine production process. (***)  

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