Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers Induce A New Transmissible Prion Disease

Researchers at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine have conducted a study on prion disease and found that transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) can be induced without an outside catalyst like a virus.

TSE (also known as prion diseases) are a group of progressive conditions affecting the brain and nervous systems of many animals and humans. The conditions include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human form of mad cow disease), Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome, fatal familial insomnia and kuru, all forming a spectrum of overlapping signs and symptoms caused by a myriad of tiny holes in the cortex that give it the appearance of a sponge. The disease impairs brain functions leading to both mental and physical deterioration over time.

Using a synthetic prion protein made in E. coli, the researchers induced a new form of TSE. Their study findings—published in January 2010 issue of Acta Neuropathol (with open access at— indicate a slow progression of the disease after the observance of first clinical signs, which is typical of how the disease unfolds in both humans and large animals, than in smaller animals such as rodents.

One of the study’s lead researchers, Robert Rohwer, PhD, director of Molecular Neurovirology Laboratory at the VA Maryland Health Care System and an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says the result is an “important milestone in establishing that the native wild-type prion protein is sufficient to induce prion disease in normal wild-type hosts. The interpretation of previous transmissions with synthetic prion proteins has been confounded by the use of mutant proteins and mutant host recipients subject to spontaneous disease.”

This result, Rohwer said, does not explain the many discrepancies “that have supported skeptics of the prion hypothesis like myself, and there is enormous work yet to be done to reconcile these apparent inconsistencies. However, the new insights, tools and focus provided by these discoveries promise to greatly accelerate the pace of those efforts.” Rohwer noted that the disease being induced “was itself unique and fascinating” and may prove valuable as a window on its progression in humans, cattle and sheep.

Rohwer, together with Ilia Backakov, PhD, an associate professor at the School of Medicine and director of the Prion Insitute at the University of Maryland’s Biotechnolgical Institute, inoculated Golden Syrian hamsters with synthetic E.coli recombinant prion proteins, while at the same time inoculating other hamsters with comprehensive slightly altered controls. During this first passage, all but two of the hamsters survived to old age (18 months) without any sign of disease. The researchers investigated the brains of each hamster at 18 months old for evidence of the TSE infection, finding that one animal showed definite signs of infection and one suspicious. They homogenized the brains of both the possibly infected and apparently uninfected animals that had been inoculated with prion protein and some control group hamsters, and then inoculated the homogenates in new animals. Again the animals appeared normal for more than a year after the inoculation, but then the animals began developing symptoms of TSE disease.

“There had been infection in the first passage, but the disease progression was so slow it didn’t have time to advance to a symptomatic form within the hamster’s lifespan,” said Rohwer.

In the hamsters from the second passage, a higher concentration of infectivity meant the infection process started at a higher level, causing the animals to reach a symptomatic stage of disease before their life’s end.

The research resulted in two findings, one being the ability of synthetic wild-type prion protein to induce prion disease in normal wild-type hosts and the other being the development of a new strain of hamster prion disease with a unique presentation for rodents that may prove valuable for investigating the longer duration TSE illnesses of larger animals like humans and cattle.

The VA Maryland Health Care System (VAMHCS) provides a broad spectrum of medical, surgical, rehabilitative, mental health and outpatient care to veterans at two medical centers, one community living & rehabilitation center and five outpatient clinics located throughout the state. More than 52,000 veterans from various generations receive care from the VAHMCS annually. Nationally recognized for its state-of-the-art technology and quality patient care, the VAHMCS is proud of its reputation as a leader in veterans’ health care, research and education. It costs nothing for Veterans to enroll for health care with the VA Maryland Health Care System and it could be one of the more important things a Veteran can do. For information about VA health care eligibility and enrollment or how to apply for a VA medical care hardship to avoid future copayments for VA health care, interested Veterans are urged to call the Enrollment Center for the VA Maryland Health Care System, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 1-800-463-6295, ext. 7324 or visit

Rosalia Scalia | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>