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Freshly Baked Science


Student Showdown:

Everything You Need to Know About Enzymes

We challenged Year 9 students at The Mandeville School in Aylesbury to a science writing showdown. The Science and English department joined forces to help participating students use their scientific knowledge to produce an informative and engaging piece of writing.

They all did an amazing job and came out with some very impressive articles, but sadly there could only be one winner and one runner up. The winner's article can be found in our summer issue (coming tomorrow). Our runner up is Taryn, we hope you enjoy her article about enzymes as much as we did. Well done Taryn!

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The Mandeville School

Runner up: Taryn

What are Enzymes?

Enzymes are made up of protein molecules and are moulded into complicated shapes. They also attach themselves to molecules to change them in specific ways. They help by improving the speed of any chemical reaction (catalyse). An example is that, the chemical reactions that help us all stay alive have a lot of help from all the work that the enzymes within the reactions carry out. 


Without having an enzyme, things would go through much slower. Here are a few things that they are needed for: muscle function, nerve function, respiration, food digesting, and loads more!  Enzymes play big parts in the human body, on a day-to-day system. By changing a few compounds, they help out lots of functions within the body the following are just a few:

  • Digestive system

  • Nervous system

  • Muscles

What do enzymes actually do?

Enzymes have multiple roles. They help to break down large molecules into small ones so the body can use them as fuel.  They help to copy DNA information and to help break down all the toxins in the body. Enzymes must work hard to help the body process properly.

How do they function?

In 1894 Emil Fischer created his model of the enzyme, “Lock and Key”. It showed an image of what a working enzymes site looks like in its specific shape and what the substrate fits into. Hence the name “Lock and Key”.

However, it is now called the “Induced-fit model”.  Within the model, you can see the change of the active site shape as it touches with the substrate, and once it is attached, it locks in and that’s when the process of the catalysis begins. It’s just watching how the enzymes work but in an image.

Random Facts:

  • Enzymes can work in certain conditions

  • 37 degrees Celsius  body temperature

  • They still work at lower temperatures, but not as fast

  • Enzymes change shapes if the temperature is too high

  • Some Enzymes only function if they have specific molecules, that don’t have protein attached to them (cofactors)

  • Some Enzymes need to be slower than others to make sure that the body is working properly

  • Enzymes can have Competitive inhibitors (molecules that stop the active site so that the substrate competes with an inhibitor), Non-competitive inhibitors ( reduces how much it is effective), Uncompetitive inhibitors (when products have to leave the active site easily, to make sure the reactions is much slower than usual), and Irreversible inhibitors (if it changes, it won’t change back, its stuck permanently)

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If you'd like your school to take part in a Student Showdown, get in contact and we'll get it organised for you.