With the dramatic increase in mortality of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) caused by thrombus, this has sparked an interest in seeking more effective thrombolytic drugs or dietary nutriments. The dietary consumption of natto, a traditional Bacillus
-fermented food (BFF), can reduce the risk of CVDs. Nattokinase (NK), a natural, safe, efficient and cost-effective thrombolytic enzyme, is the most bioactive ingredient in natto. NK has progressively been considered to have potentially beneficial cardiovascular effects. Microbial synthesis is a cost-effective method of producing NK. Bacillus
spp. are the main production strains. While microbial synthesis of NK has been thoroughly explored, NK yield, activity and stability are the critical restrictions. Multiple optimization strategies are an attempt to tackle the current problems to meet commercial demands. We focus on the recent advances in NK, including fermented soybean foods, production strains, optimization strategies, extraction and purification, activity maintenance, biological functions, and safety assessment of NK. In addition, this review systematically discussed the challenges and prospects of NK in actual application. Due to the continuous exploration and rapid progress of NK, NK is expected to be a natural future alternative to CVDs.
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