Chemists at UC Irvine have done something that no one expected to do with an egg. While the expression “You can’t unboil an egg” has been around for years – that one can finally be put to rest. Not because scientists have given up, either. Rather, chemists at UC Irvine have done just that, and the findings were published today in ChemBioChem, a science journal. Gregory Weiss, a UCI professor of chemistry, who was intimately involved in the study, and was a member of the team who published the paper – said “Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg.” He then goes on to point out that “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.”
In the past one of the major roadblocks for those who have been trying to get this type of scenario to play out in a lab have been protein misfolding. One major roadblock in any scientific field. However, the team put together a process – which was the ultimate emphasis of the project. Really, unboiling an egg wasn’t the goal of the project – but more importantly to determine what type of process would work for making these types of proteins refold in a way that would be beneficial in medical communities, food processing communities, and much more.
Weiss said “It’s not so much that we’re interesting in processing the egg; 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.” The time that is saved through this process is dramatic as well. Previous methods that existed took up to four days to complete. This process takes just a few moments to complete entirely and to reconstruct the entire egg back from its hard-boiled consistency.
The benefits in the medical community would be lowering the cost of cancer treatments and other drugs, by being able to more quickly create the drugs – and generate more research on drugs that are being tested. It would make more of these highly-necessary drugs available, and allow for greater success in the medical field through treatment.