Chemists find way to unboil egg; pave way for reduced cost of cancer treatment

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Chemists over at University of California, Irvine and those from South Australia’s Flinders University have found a way to unboil a hen egg – the process and technique they claim will dramatically reduce not only costs cancer treatment but also food production and all areas of biotechnology related to proteins.

“Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,” said Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry. “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.”

Using a urea substance, Weiss and his colleagues re-created a clear protein lysozyme by liquefying the boiled egg white. The protein bits are still balled up into unusable masses and to get them in proper order scientists used a vortex fluid device designed by Professor Colin Raston’s laboratory at South Australia’s Flinders University.

Using the device, shear stress within thin, microfluidic films is applied to the balled up proteins forcing them back into untangled, proper form.

Weiss said that the reason for processing the egg was to demonstrate how powerful the process they invented is. Weiss added that other methods are expensive and time-consuming while their process is cost effective and reduced cost many folds.

“This method could transform industrial and research production of proteins,” the researchers wrote in the study published in the journal ChemBioChem.

For example, pharmaceutical companies currently create cancer antibodies in expensive hamster ovary cells that do not often misfold proteins.

The ability to quickly and cheaply re-form common proteins from yeast or E coli bacteria could potentially streamline protein manufacturing and make cancer treatments more affordable, researchers said.