Part of a prion, the protein implicated in vCJD
A gene may protect people against variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
People who lack a gene involved in immune responses may be three times more likely to suffer from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a new study suggests1. The result, if borne out in larger studies, could point researchers toward therapies for the incurable brain disease.
vCJD is thought to occur when people are exposed to misshapen prion proteins from cows with bovine spongiform encephalopathy - BSE or ’mad cow disease’. The gene does not appear to protect against the sporadic form of the disease (CJD).
It would take something like 500 patients - many more than have been diagnosed - to get truly reliable findings, says Stephen O’Brien, a geneticist at that US National Cancer Institute in Maryland. Nonetheless, he says, "the results are provocative and make us want to know if they’re right".
It would be good to test a larger sample, agrees Collinge.
Although the findings do not point to any immediate therapy for the disease they could help researchers looking for treatments. "If we can understand why DQ7 is important in protecting against vCJD, it might open up new avenues to treatment," Collinge says.
ERICA KLARREICH | © Nature News Service
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