Unboiling an egg, not a parable anymore!


“You can’t unboil an egg”, this is not true anymore.

Scientists at University of California Irvine and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites, a process that could help lower the production cost of cancer treatments and substantially reduce food wastages in food processing plants. Their study appeared in January in the journal ChemBioChem.

When an egg is boiled or cooked the proteins inside the egg transform their shape and begin to unfold. As proteins unfold, “they start sticking to each other and start getting entangled”. The boiled egg turns solid as the proteins mesh with other proteins and force the water out.

Unboiling the egg essentially means refolding the proteins into their original shape.


Sounds interesting, how it is done?

To re-create a clear protein known as lysozyme once an egg has been boiled, the scientists first separated yolks from hen eggs . Then they boiled the whites for 20 minutes at 194 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees Celsius) then they added a urea substance that chews away at the whites, liquefying the solid material.

That’s half the process; at the molecular level, protein bits are still balled up into unusable masses.

The scientists then employed a vortex fluid device, a high-powered machine. Shear stress within the thin, microfluidic films is applied to those tiny pieces, forcing them back into untangled, proper form. the lysozyme proteins were spun at high speed, they actually stretched and stretched until they snapped back into their original shape. In fact, the mechanical stress restored the proteins back to about 85 percent of their original activity

Ok, so what? Why is this important and how can it help us?   

Correctly folded proteins in the form of enzymes are critical in converting one product into another ( milk into cheese, flour into bread, etc.)

Any discrepancy whilst converting one product into another cause a lot of rejections & wastages as the reversal of proteins shape & structure is a very difficult and cumbersome process.

Dialysis can help us do it, but it involves tediously separating the faulty enzymes out in a few days process

“The new process takes minutes,” “It can speed up the things by a factor of thousands.”

The researchers knew that this is a problem that affects not just food producers, but also cancer researchers who struggle with unfolded proteins in some treatments.

“This method … could transform industrial and research production of proteins,” the researchers say.

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