Scientists finally unboil an egg. What was the point?
A new discovery has left boiled eggs 'unboiled,' a procedure that could lead to some practical applications.
Anybody can boil an egg, but now, researchers discovered a way to reverse the process. No yolk!
In a new study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, scientists have successfully discovered a way to return a boiled egg to its unboiled state. Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology and biochemistry, said the process highlights the amazing ability to unfold tangled proteins and return them to their original shapes.
"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," Dr. Weiss said in a statement. "It's not so much that we're interested in processing the eggs; that's just demonstrating how powerful this process is.”
By boiling the egg, Weiss and his colleagues put it in a state in which its proteins become tangled clumps. They then added urea, a chemical found in urine, to the egg to liquify the egg white. The egg was then put in a high-powered machine called a vortex fluid device, which was designed at Flinders University in Australia and applied shear force in thin, microfluidic films to force the egg proteins back into their untangled form.
According to LiveScience.com, traditional methods of recovering “misfolded” proteins are time-consuming and costly. This method, however, takes only a few minutes, having huge implications for future uses.
"The new process takes minutes," Weiss noted in a statement. "It speeds things up by a factor of thousands."
So what sort of implications does this new discovery hold?
By saving time and resources by reusing proteins, this technique has the potential to help multiple industries. Industrial cheese-makers and farmers, who work with recombinant proteins, could produce more product with less financial impact. It also has implications for pharmaceutical companies, who rely upon proteins for research and development.
“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,” said Dr. Weiss. “I can’t predict how much money it will save, but I can [predict] this will save a ton of time, and time is money.”