Levels of prion protein in brain may not be reliable marker for disease

Nov 30, 2007

Rapid diagnostic testing used to check for the presence of prion diseases such as “mad cow disease” might fail to identify some highly infectious samples, researchers have found. Currently, scanning beef or other meat products for possible prion infection involves sampling brain tissue from the animal for abnormally folded prion protein, also called PrP; this form of PrP, which is sticky and hard to degrade, is believed to be the infectious agent behind prion diseases.

Rona Barron and colleagues tested whether abnormal PrP and infectivity was an absolute association. They injected mice with two different strains of prion-infected tissue and quantified the degree of infection in these mice. Next, they examined the amount of abnormally folded PrP in brains of the sick mice and found that it did not correlate in any way with how infectious the disease strain was; in fact, some highly infectious tissue samples had nearly undetectable levels of abnormal PrP.

These data suggest that not all abnormal PrP found in diseased tissues is infectious, and may instead be a pathologic by-product of disease. Some other agent, or a specific conformation of abnormally folded PrP, may therefore be responsible for prion disease, and current assays relying solely on abnormal PrP detection could therefore underestimate the frequency of infection. Barron and colleagues note that it’s vital to find additional disease markers to help ensure no future prion outbreaks occur.

Source: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Explore further: Ebola in mind, US colleges screen some students

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Danish museum discovers unique gift from Charles Darwin

2 hours ago

The Natural History Museum of Denmark recently discovered a unique gift from one of the greatest-ever scientists. In 1854, Charles Darwin – father of the theory of evolution – sent a gift to his Danish ...

Watching others play video games is the new spectator sport

2 hours ago

As the UK's largest gaming festival, Insomnia, wrapped up its latest event on August 25, I watched a short piece of BBC Breakfast news reporting from the festival. The reporter and some of the interviewees appeared baff ...

Recommended for you

Ebola in mind, US colleges screen some students

3 hours ago

University students from West Africa may be subject to extra health checks when they arrive to study in the United States as administrators try to insulate their campuses from the worst Ebola outbreak in ...

WHO: More Ebola cases in past week than any other

4 hours ago

The past week has seen the highest increase of Ebola cases since the outbreak in West Africa began, the World Health Organization said Friday, offering more evidence that the crisis is worsening.

Guidelines presented for diagnosing focal liver lesions

19 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Focal liver lesions (FLLs) are mostly benign, and can be diagnosed based on knowledge of their presentation, associated clinical and laboratory features, and natural history, according to clinical ...

User comments : 0