Scientists have invented a way to un-boil a hen egg
Finally, scientists have figured out how to un-boil an egg — which is great for those who accidentally boil, eggs a lot. Okay, so it may not be a cure for cancer, but researchers say the science behind the new technique could cut cancer treatment costs.
“Yes, we have invented a way to un-boil a hen egg,” Gregory Weiss, a chemistry professor at the University of California, Irvine, confirmed in a press release. “In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 minutes at 90 degrees Celsius and return a key protein in the egg to working order.”
The molecular proteins in egg whites have a wide range of applications in both science and industry. But many of these protein structures become tangled and unusable during processing, just as they do when they’re cooked. This hindrance is commonly called “misfolding.”
To recover knotted proteins, scientists first introduce a urea substance (also called a “carbamide”) to the egg whites. The compound works towards turning the solids back into liquid. Next, researchers subject the remaining balls of twisted protein to a high-powered machine called a vortex fluid device. Inside the machine, the tiny proteins are straightened out by the stress and pressure of thin micro fluidic films.
Scientists have previously found more elaborate ways to reconstruct damaged proteins, but never as simply or as quickly as this new technique does. The improved efficiency could streamline cancer treatment production processes, making them more affordable. The un-boiling strategy could also benefit cheese makers and other food producers.
“The new process takes minutes,” Weiss said. “It speeds things up by a factor of thousands.” The new technique is detailed in the journal ChemBioChem.