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What's better than a scoop of ice cream on a hot summer day? How about one that doesn't melt into a sticky puddle within minutes? That, believe it or not, could soon become a reality thanks to the ingenious scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee.
The secret behind this amazing ice cream that could hit grocery shelves within three years, is a naturally occurring protein called BsIA (Bacterial Surface Layer A). Present in foods like Natto, a Japanese breakfast made from fermented soybeans, it is extracted from the Bacillus subtilis bacteria. The scientists who revealed the exciting news on August 31, say that the microorganisms use the BsIA protein to encase and protect their colonies.
University of Edinburgh's Cait MacPhee, who is leading this sweet effort, says the protein works perfectly for ice cream. That's because it has the physical properties to "protect" the frozen treat by binding together the air, fat, and water. This makes the ice cream more resistant to melting and allows it to remain firm for longer periods of time, even during hot summer days.
As if that is not good enough, the researchers say it also prevents ice crystals from forming. This they believe will allow manufacturers to produce ice creams that are lower in saturated fat and calories without compromising on the texture or flavor. Additionally, the protein will also help reduce their energy costs because the ice cream does not have to be kept as chilled when it is being made or transported.
The icing on the cake or should we say ice cream ? Bacillus or hay subtilis as it is also called because of its presence in the upper layers of the soil, is a very common bacteria. It can be found everywhere - in water, air, ground and even our gastrointestinal tract. This means that it is a "friendly" bacteria and, therefore, perfectly safe to consume.
The researchers have published two papers on how the protein works. One outlines the biological process while the other talks about the physics. More importantly, they have extensively tested (and tasted) the ice creams incorporating the protein and even filed a patent for their process.
As to how long the ice cream will stay frozen? The scientists say that depends on the weather and the flavor. Though some may melt faster than others, they will still last a lot longer than current ice creams. This means we will finally be able to relax and savor the treat, one lick at a time - YUM!
Resources: telegraph.co.uk, zmescience.com, cnn.com