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Scientists have figured out how to ‘unboil’ an egg

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It’s not just a cool little trick – the ability to quickly return
molecular proteins to working order has applications in everything from
new medical treatments to more efficient food production.  
US and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil a hen’s egg,
in an effort to figure out what to do with the masses of valuable
molecular proteins that could be used for many different applications in
the biotechnology industry, if it weren’t for their tendency to
frequently ‘misfold’ themselves into useless shapes. 
“Yes, we have invented a
way to unboil a hen egg,” said one of the team, Gregory Weiss, a
professor of chemistry and molecular biology and biochemistry at the
University of California, Irvine, in a press release. “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.”
The secret, says Mary Beth Griggs at Popular Science,
was adding urea – yes, the stuff that’s passed out of your body via
urine, formed due to the breakdown of proteins – to the boiled eggs.
This saw the knotted proteins break down into pieces, and the solid,
cooked eggs restored to a clear, liquid protein known as lysozyme
This liquid egg was then processed using a special piece of equipment
at Flinders University in South Australia known as a vortex fluid
device, which untangled and re-joined the pieces together in a matter of
minutes.

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“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,” says Weiss
Publishing in the journal ChemBioChem,
the team says this new method of protein detangling is a vast
improvement on current techniques, which can take up to four days to
complete. Taking mere minutes, Weiss says, their technique “speeds things up by a factor of thousands”.
This
could solve a problem I was not aware of – pharmaceutical companies
commonly produce cancer antibodies for treatment using hamster ovary
cells, which are expensive, but valuable, as they don’t often misfold
proteins. The same goes for industrial cheese makers and farmers who
need these kinds of proteins to drive the fermentation process. 

Using
this new technique, scientists could instead use proteins extracted
super-cheaply from yeast and E. coli bacteria and restore them to a useable form. 

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