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Scientist Brown moves a 3D model of a HSP90 protein on a screen at the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton
Scientist Nathan Brown moves a 3D model of a HSP90 protein on a screen at the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, England, on July 15, 2013 Stefan Wermuth—Reuters

Here's Why It's Important That Scientists Have Figured Out How to Unboil Egg Whites

Jan 27, 2015
TIME Health
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A group of University of California, Irvine, and Australian chemists have discovered how to unboil egg whites, potentially slashing costs for cancer treatment and food production.

The discovery could be a financial boon to the biotechnology industry because scientists have long struggled to efficiently recycle molecular proteins, forcing manufacturers of cancer antibodies to use more expensive methods, according a press release by UC Irvine.

Cheap proteins have a tendency to fold into structurally flawed shapes and the current recycling process is both expensive and time consuming. By contrast, the new method could make utilizing cheap proteins viable for many types of research.

For cancer treatments, pharmaceutical companies currently use expensive hamster ovary cells because they rarely fold incorrectly. The hope is that the boiled egg method can be applied to cheaper proteins such as yeast or E. coli bacteria, facilitating the more efficient and economical production of antibodies.

"In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold,” said Gregory Weiss, UC Irvine professor of chemistry, molecular biology and biochemistry. “The new process takes minutes ... It speeds things up by a factor of thousands.”

Industrial cheese producers could also use the method to achieve a larger yield.

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