Scientists find a way to unboil eggs

Scientists find a way to unboil eggs

Scientists have managed to unboil an ordinary boiled egg, and the results may have implications for cancer treatments, biotechnology and a broad range of food production processes, a British daily reported on Tuesday.

Like many researchers, Gregory Weiss, a member of the research team, has struggled to efficiently produce or recycle molecular proteins that have a wide range of applications but frequently ‘mis-fold’ into structurally incorrect shapes when they are formed, rendering them useless.

“It’s not so much that we’re interested in processing the eggs; that’s just demonstrating how powerful this process is,” said Weiss, a UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry.

“The real problem is there are lots of cases of gummy proteins that you spend way too much time scraping off your test tubes, and you want some means of recovering that material.”

Current methods are time-consuming and expensive: the equivalent of dialysis at the molecular level must be done for about four days. Weiss says the new process takes just minutes to carry out. “It speeds things up by a factor of thousands,” he said.

Weiss and colleagues added a urea substance to boiled egg whites; this ‘chews’ the solid whites, liquefying them. They then used a vortex fluid device, a high-powered machine designed by Professor Colin Raston’s laboratory at Flinders University. Shear stress forces the tangled masses of protein back into their untangled form.

“This method … could transform industrial and research production of proteins,” the researchers wrote in their paper, which has been published in the journal ChemBioChem.

They say that industrial cheesemakers, farmers and others who use recombinant proteins could achieve more bang for their buck by using this method. The ability to quickly and cheaply re-form common proteins from yeast or E. coli bacteria could potentially streamline protein manufacturing and make cancer treatments more affordable.