Scientists from the University of California, Irvine and Australia’s Flinders University have invented a way to unboil a hen egg.

The team of chemists focused on finding a method to efficiently produce or recycle molecular proteins. These materials have a wide range of applications but are often left in the wrong structure or in an incorrect shape and are rendered useless.

The results of the study were published in the scientific journal ChemBioChem.

When an egg is put in boiling water, the heat breaks and the bonds that holds together the protein’s amino acid strings. As the heat rises, these strings then form new, stronger bonds which forces out water and hardens the contents of the egg.

Reversing the process allows the proteins to be recovered and reused.

In order to recreate a clear protein known as lysozyme once an egg has been boiled, the boiled egg whites and yokes must be separated from each other. The white are then soaked in a chemical called urea, a substance that chews away at the whites and liquefies the solid material.

However at the molecular level, the protein pieces are still folded into unusable masses. The scientists then used a vortex fluid machine to spin the whites at high speeds to restore them to their original, unboiled and untangled state.

The chemists believe that the same process can be used for many other types of proteins as well. This breakthrough could transform industrial and research production of proteins.

It could be used in the productions of cancer antibodies, which are currently made in expensive hamster ovary cells. It would be much cheaper to use yeast or bacteria cells and employ the un-boiling technique. Pharmaceutical companies would then be able to streamline their protein manufacturing which would make cancer treatments much more affordable.

This un-boiling technique is already being used in cancer research at University of California, Irvine.

Gerry Oginski
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