Researchers at the University of California Irvine did not technically unboil an egg the way that many recent reports may lead you to believe. You can’t exactly unmake an omelette into something you’d recognize as an egg.
But the process holds a lot of potential for the future of molecular biology research.
“It’s not so much that we’re interested in processing the eggs; that’s just demonstrating how powerful this process is,” says Gregory Weiss, one of the authors of the scientific paper, published in the journal ChemBioChem. “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.”
The procedure with the egg was just demonstrating the power of the process that Weiss and his colleagues developed. The ultimate goal of the research is to untangle other proteins that misfold, like those used in cancer research. With this process to salvage proteins that have misfolded, research can streamline protein manufacturing and make cancer research more affordable because of less wasted material.
Research often use hamster ovaries, which are rather expensive, to create proteins for cancer medication. Less expensive materials like yeast result in tangled proteins. Weiss’s procedure can untangle those tangled proteins.
In a Reddit AMA thread, Weiss explained the goal: “We’re going to use this approach to produce proteins associated with cancer for use in the development of new anti-cancer diagnostic tests. My dream is for everyone on the planet to be tested early and often for diseases, as we can treat patients much more easily and successfully the earlier the disease gets diagnosed.”
It’s true that misfolding proteins can cause of a number of neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But this procedure won’t lead to a cure for those diseases because it can’t work inside living cells.
“I really wish our vortex fluid device could fix incorrectly formed proteins inside living cells and organisms,” Weiss posted on Reddit. “But it doesn’t-unfortunately….This approach can’t work without removing the proteins from patients. And that’s not going to be good for their health.”