Can chitin be produced biotechnologically?
There have been many efforts towards establishing a biotechnological process for chitin production but none has been successful on a commercial scale. Still, proof-of-principle for biotechnological extraction of chitin from shrimp or crab shells is available. Decalcification can be achieved using e.g. lactic acid bacteria as the lactic acid secreted by them dissolves the calcium carbonate of the shells, forming calcium lactate. Deproteination can be achieved by proteases, either from the same bacteria or from added proteolytic bacteria. Care must be taken, of course, that the bacteria used do not possess chitinolytic enzymes! While the biotechnological extraction of chitin is in principle a more gentle and less damaging process than chemical extraction, theoretically yielding a higher quality product, its efficiency is not yet high enough for the development of a commercial process on an industrial scale.