Mad cow disease (BSE), which has caused the death of more than 200,000 cattle and 165 people in the U.K., has now abated. But other prion disorders are on the rise, and there is concern that new strains will infect humans. Prions are not readily transmittable from species to species, but once they have broken through the species barrier they can rapidly adapt and become contagious within the species. Intensive work is now underway to find new, more sensitive methods for detecting these potentially deadly protein structures and distinguish between various strains.
The method now being presented in the journal Nature Methods is based on a fluorescent molecule, a so-called conjugated polymer, which was developed at Linköping University.
The research team infected genetically identical laboratory mice with BSE, scrapie (which afflicts sheep), and CWD (chronic wasting disease or "mad elk disease," which is epidemic in the central U.S.) for several generations in a row. Gradually new strains of prions emerge, making the diseases more fatal to the mice. Tissue samples from mice were examined using the fluorescent molecule, which seeks out and binds with prions. This is signaled by a shift in color. By tweaking the molecule, the team has been able to get it to show different colors depending on the structure of the prioneach prion strain emits its own optical fingerprint.
This is an important difference compared with other techniques used to find prions, such as antibodies and the well-known stain Congo red.
The technique has also proven to work well on tissue sections from dead animals, such as cows infected with BSE. Now the scientists want to move on and look for alternative sample-taking methods for diagnosing and tracking prion diseases in humans in early stages.
The method would then be useful for screening blood products, since there is a risk that people can be carriers of prions without having any symptoms of disease. In the U.K. it was discovered that 66 people had received blood from blood donors who were infected with the human form of BSE (a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob's disease, vCJD), and among them, four individuals have been shown to be infected (source: Health Protection Agency, Jan. 2007).
"Using our methods, we can directly see the structure of the prions and thereby deduce the disease," says Peter Nilsson, one of the lead authors of the article. Nilsson developed the technique as a doctoral student at Linköping University and now, as a post-doctoral fellow with Professor Adrian Aguzzi's research team in Zürich, has been applying the technology to prion diseases. After New Year's he will assume a post-doc position at Linköping.
"For us researchers it is truly exciting to use this technique to understand more about both prions and other defectively folded proteins that give rise to similar disorders, such as Alzheimer's," says Peter Hammarström, co-author and research director of the prion laboratory at Linköping.
Another co-author is Kurt Wüthrich, the 2002 Nobel laureate in chemistry.
The article "Prion strain discrimination using luminescent conjugated polymers" by Christina J Sigurdson, K Peter R Nilsson, Simone Hornemann, Guiseppe Manco, Magdalini Polymenidou, Petra Schwartz, Mario Leclerc, Per Hammarström, Kurt Wüthrich, and Adriano Aguzzi was published in Nature Methods online on November 18 and will appear in the December issue of the printed journal.Contact: Peter Nilsson, phone: +41 44 2553428, firstname.lastname@example.org
Åke Hjelm | idw
Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University
Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences