Cysteine is a sulfur containing amino acid, which derives its uniqueness from the chemically reactive hydroxyl group. It contributes to the stability of proteins by building disulfide bridges. Thus, it enables the formation of strong fiber strands such as hair, wool, and feathers as well as horns, hooves, and nails. These are made up of protein containing high proportion of cysteine. Cysteine is obtained primarily from feathers. It is also commonly extracted from human hair and bristles and hooves of swine. Feathers are boiled with hydrochloric acid to obtain cysteine. Wacker Chemie AG has developed a method for producing L-cysteine with the help of bacterial fermentation. Cysteine, when taken as a supplement, is usually in the form of N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC). The body converts this into cysteine and then into glutathione, a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants fight free harmful compounds in the body that damage cell membranes and DNA. Researchers believe free radicals play a key role in aging as well as development of a number of health problems, including heart diseases and cancer.

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Demand for cysteine is primarily driven by its application in pharmaceutical and food industries. L-cysteine can break disulfide bridges in peptides and proteins and act as radical scavenger. It can be used as reducing agent. Therefore, demand for cysteine is expected to increase significantly during the forecast period.

Based on the method used for production, the cysteine market can be bifurcated into traditional method and biotechnology based method. L-cysteine is traditionally produced from animal products such as feathers or hairs. With the new biotechnological method developed by Wacker Chemie AG, Escherichia coli, Bacteria were modified, first, to produce far more L-cysteine than they need for themselves by selective biomolecular intervention in the metabolism of the bacteria, and, second, to excrete the synthesized L-cysteine into the nutrient broth.

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In terms of end-use industry, the cysteine market can be divided into food & dietary supplement industry, cosmetic industry, and pharmaceutical industry. In the food industry segment, L-cysteine is used as an intermediate for process flavorings. It is primarily used in meat flavorings and roast aromas. L-cysteine is also added to various types of dough during processing to break down the gluten in order to make dough easier to knead and process. Cysteine is primarily used in the production of cysteine derivatives N-acetyl-L-cysteine and S-(carboxymethyl)-L-cysteine in the pharmaceutical industry. L-cysteine is also employed as processing auxiliary for refolding genetically engineered protein active molecules. For instance, it is used in the production of human insulin. L-cysteine is used as anti-aging agent in the cosmetic industry.

In terms of geography, the cysteine market can be segregated into Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa. Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific are the major regions of the cysteine market. Asia Pacific is expected to emerge as the leading region of the cysteine market during the forecast period. Latin America exhibits significant potential for the cysteine market. The market in Middle East & Africa is anticipated to expand substantially with the innovation in the use of cysteine.

Key players operating in the cysteine market are Wacker Chemie AG, Ajinomoto Pte.Ltd, Wuxi Bikang Bioengineering Co., Ltd., Donboo Amino Acid Co. Ltd, and Merck KGaA.

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