What came first, the chicken or the egg? Luckily, it seems there’s no further need to ponder this age-old conundrum because scientists believe they have finally cracked it.
And it all comes down to a protein called ovocledidin-17 (OC-17).
Cracking the code
According to researchers from Sheffield and Warwick Universities, the chicken most certainly came before the egg. Using a super computer, called HECToR, they ‘zoomed in’ on the formation of an egg and saw that OC-17 was crucial in kick-starting crystallisation ? the early stages of forming an eggshell ? acting as a catalyst to speed up the development of the shell.
In simple terms, OC-17 coverts calcium carbonate into calcite crystals, which makes up the egg shell, creating six grams of shell every 24 hours.
The key to the egg-and-chicken puzzle is the fact that OC-17 is found only in the chicken’s ovaries.
Commenting on their findings, Dr Colin Freeman from Sheffield University, said: “It had long been suspected that the egg came first but now we have the scientific proof that shows that in fact the chicken came first.”
Prof John Harding, also of Sheffield University, said the discovery could have other uses. He added that understanding how chickens make shells is fascinating in itself but can also give clues towards designing new materials.
This brings me to my second “egg-fascination” for the day: eggshells may soon be used to create a powerful form of wound dressing.
Wound healing can sometimes be a complicated process, especially deep ones like leg ulcers ? often associated with diabetes. These wounds require very expensive collagen-based wound dressings.
But thanks to the work of forward-thinking researchers at the National Institute for Health Research and the Norwegian medical firm Biovotec, a cheaper plaster-type dressing based on eggshell membranes may soon be available to treat wounds including bedsores and other problematic wounds suffered by the elderly and diabetics.
Project Manager Hussein Dharma said: “The idea is based on an old Chinese remedy for healing wounds, which used the thin membrane coating around the eggshell as a dressing for wounds because it’s known to have properties which can accelerate the healing process.”
Now, we don’t encourage you to try eggshell wound dressing at home, but if you want to participate in clearing up other age-old questions perhaps you can come up with an answer for this one:
Why did the chicken cross the road?
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Bradford researchers plan to recycle eggshells to heal chronic wounds quicker, published online 25.03.16, thetelegraphandargus.co.uk
‘The chicken came first, not the egg’, scientists prove, published online, metro.co.uk