Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Clue to prion formation found, offers step toward treating puzzling diseases


Prions—their existence is intriguing and their links to disease are unsettling. These unconventional infectious agents are involved in mad cow disease and other fatal brain illnesses in humans and animals, rattling prior assumptions about the spread of infections.

Dartmouth Medical School biochemists studying the mysteries of these prion particles have discovered a novel step in their formation. Their results, reported in a recent issue of Biochemistry could help provide a new approach for therapy against prion diseases. The team, headed by Dr. Surachai Supattapone, assistant professor of biochemistry and of medicine, includes Ralf Lucassen and Koren Nishina.

The cause of certain neurodegenerative diseases has long stymied scientists. The variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans -- which is linked to bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease -- as well as scrapie in sheep and chronic wasting disease in deer and elk are transmissible.

Yet the infectious agent is not a parasite, fungus, bacterium or virus. Instead, it seems to be a prion, which is a protein, but an abnormally shaped one. A normal brain protein called PrPC misfolds into the prion protein called PrPSc. Until prions were discovered, proteins were not considered agents of infection.

Still unknown is how PrPC turns into PrPSc, which is characterized biochemically by being resistant to enyzme digestion. The researchers created a system to study the conversion into PrPSc in a test tube.

“We found that we could inhibit this conversion with compounds that block free sulfhydryl groups,” said Supattapone. “This is the first discovery that formation of PrPSc requires a reactive chemical group. It is a clue that there may be a cofactor containing the free sulfhydryl group, such as an enzyme that helps to catalyze the process of forming PrPSc from PrPC. Moreover, it may be a first step of a logical approach to find a therapeutic strategy against prion disease based on specifically inhibiting a catalytic cofactor.”

Andy Nordhoff | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>