Scientists from the University of California Irvine and the University of Western Australia have now developed a method using which we can now to ‘unboil’ egg whites by untangling their proteins. While this might seem quite useless to a layman, the new technology can be used to reduce the cost of any biotechnology process requiring folding of proteins significantly.
Gregory Weiss, UCI biochemistry professor, who was involved in the research that led to the unboiling of an egg said, “Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 minutes at 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit) and return a key protein in the egg to working order.”
After boiling the eggs for 20 minutes at the aforementioned temperature, the researchers added urea —a chemical compound found in urine — to the eggs to liquefy them, Popular Science reported.
“It’s not so much that we’re interested in processing the eggs; that’s just demonstrating how powerful this process is […] 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.”
Earlier known methods of untangling the proteins found in the egg whites were not only expensive but also time consuming as the equivalent of dialysis at the molecular level must be done for roughly four days, whereas the new process “takes minutes” and “speeds things up by a factor of thousands,” according to Weiss.
The present team working on the project applied mechanical energy to pull the proteins tangled up in the egg white and gave them a chance to refold. Now that should not be taken to mean that the team was able to get back a gooey raw egg back due to this new found technique- only one of the key proteins found in egg white is returned because the egg white has been dissolved in other compounds.
Researchers working on this project have filed for a patent and are raising funds to scale up the process to meet the needs of biotech companies. They believe this breakthrough of being able to untangle the proteins in a boiled egg white in a cost effective manner could advance cancer treatments and also be applied in food production and biotechnology.