It's pretty easy to boil an egg, but is there a way to "unboil" it?
Not quite, but scientists say they have found a way to reverse the effects that boiling has on the proteins found in egg whites--and it could help streamline the way the complex molecules are manufactured for use in healthcare and food production.
“Yes, we have invented a way to 'unboil' a hen egg,” Dr. Gregory Weiss, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Irvine and one of the scientists, said in a written statement. “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.”
Weiss and his colleagues first added the chemical compound urea to the egg to liquefy the material that hardened during the boiling process. Then the researchers processed the liquid with a so-called vortex-fluid device, which spins material at high speeds to straighten tangled molecules so they can refold to their original shape, according to Geek.com.
This ability to reconstitute proteins could streamline the process of manufacturing proteins used, among other things, in the production of cheese and other foods and the development of cancer treatments, according to the researchers.
"I can't predict how much money it will save, but I can say this will save a ton of time, and time is money," Weiss told CNBC.
A paper describing the research was published online Jan. 23, 2015 in the journal ChemBioChem.