Prions made in vitro cause brain disease in hamsters
UTMB scientists offer strongest evidence yet that infectious misformed proteins cause mad cow disease and other mysterious brain disorders. Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) have produced the strongest proof yet that the mysterious and devastating brain diseases known as "transmissible spongiform encephalopathies" (TSEs) are transmitted by an infectious agent composed only of a malformed protein, and not a virus. TSEs, which can afflict both human beings and animals, include mad cow disease, new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome, scrapie, kuru and chronic wasting disease.
This controversial "prion hypothesis" was proposed by Stanley Prusiner in 1982, and led to Prusiner receiving the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1997. Until now, however, scientists have been unable to confirm its validity by causing a TSE in normal lab animals by infecting them with malformed proteins (dubbed "prions" by Prusiner) created entirely in a test tube. Such an approach eliminates the possibility that some other agent might be causing the disease.
Jim Kelly | EurekAlert!
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