You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs or, in this case, unboiling them.
Scientists from the University of California — Irvine and the University of Western Australia have found a way to untangle the proteins that come together when egg whites are cooked, and they say the process could reduce costs for cancer treatment and have a great impact on the biotechnology industry.
“Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,” UCI biochemist Gregory Weiss said in a statement. “In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold.”
Researchers boiled the eggs for 20 minutes at 194 degrees Fahrenheit and then added urea — which is a chemical compound found in urine — to the eggs to liquefy them, Popular Science reported.
But their work wasn’t done.
“At the molecular level, protein bits are still balled up into unusable masses,” according to the release.
Researchers then used a “vortex fluid device” on the liquid egg whites to get these tangled proteins to return to their proper form.
“The new process takes minutes,” Weiss said. “It speeds things up by a factor of thousands.”
Scientists said the research, which was published in the journal ChemBioChem, could also “drastically” slash costs for biotechnology processes that involve forcing proteins back into their original state.
“It’s not so much that we’re interested in processing the eggs; that’s just demonstrating how powerful this process is,” Weiss said. “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.”