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Boil an Egg by Mistake? That Can Be Reversed

Researchers "unboil" a 20-minute egg
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2015 3:00 PM CST

(Newser) – Want to unboil an egg? Probably not, but researchers in the US and Australia have found a way to do so with a primary ingredient from pee, Popular Science reports. "Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg," biochemist Gregory Weiss says in a statement. "In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold." In practical terms, they boiled eggs at 194 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes to make sure they were fully cooked. As usual with boiled eggs, the protein-rich egg whites began unfolding, then folded back together in a firmer way—going from "clear and mucus-like to white and rubbery," CNBC reports. The researchers then untangled those proteins by adding urea, a primary ingredient in urine.

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Finally, the now-liquid proteins went into a "vortex fluid device," a machine that reconnects them so they appear uncooked. To what end, exactly? Well, this process can be used to remove gummy proteins from laboratory test tubes (a time-consuming process, apparently). More importantly, Weiss says it can quickly produce antibodies for a particular cancer treatment; the antibodies attach to cancer cells' proteins, which enables the immune system to wipe them out. If egg-uncooking per se is your thing, the Guardian reports, a French chemist did it by detaching the egg's protein molecules and adding sodium borohydride or vitamin C. But while this "may be fun, it does not have many practical applications," the Guardian says. (In other food science, there's a new pill that's "like an imaginary meal.")

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