How Unboiling Eggs Can Reduce the Cost of Cancer Treatments

Reconfiguring once unusable proteins in a matter of minutes will make medications easier to produce and afford.
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Reconfiguring once unusable proteins in a matter of minutes will make medications easier to produce and afford.

Most of us spending time over a hot stove in order to whip up some egg salad aren’t looking to revert the hard-boiled eggs back to their original slimy form. But a group of researchers have found a way to do just that. Unboiling a cooked egg could be a pretty big breakthrough for the medical community.

When boiling an egg, the heat causes the protein of the white to tangle up. That’s what makes the raw gel-like substance become tough and chewy. But by adding a chemical to the egg, scientists at the University of California, Irvine, and Flinders University in Australia have found a way to reverse the effect.

The added urea substance pulls apart the tangled lysozyme protein in the egg to turn it back into a liquid. But that’s only half the battle. The solution then goes into a vortex fluid device and becomes completely untangled, and therefore useable, according to UCI’s press release.

Urea is the same chemical compound found in urine, so this procedure won’t be much help when someone wants to recook breakfast because they wished they’d made scrambled eggs instead of over-medium. Unboiling an egg is just an example to illustrate promising advancements in pharmaceuticals.

Many cancer treatment drugs rely on specific proteins to create antibodies. While there are current methods of reforming common proteins, the process is expensive and takes days. Using urea and the vortex takes mere minutes. This new streamlined process will allow the drugs to be developed more quickly, and thus cut down on costs for the consumer.

Bonus: This biochemical reaction could help out farmers and cheese-makers too. 

Top photo courtesy of Steve Zylius/University of California, Irvine