Press cutting: Researchers make strides in vCJD detection
31 January 2007
A way of reversing brain impairment that strikes in the early stages of prion diseases such as vCJD and BSE has been identified by scientists.
Prion diseases are caused when abnormal forms of natural proteins called prions get into the blood stream and force proteins already in the body to retract and suffocate brain cells.
Researchers led by Giovanna Malucci [UCL Institute of Neurology] used genetically modified mice to show that blocking the body's ability to make its own natural, healthy prions, reversed early symptoms of the disease.
They infected mice with abnormal prions and found they began to develop disease. But when the mice stopped producing their own prions, their symptoms cleared up.
"A psychologically healthy mouse will make nests and burrow, but they lose that early in the disease, they get withdrawn and depressed and lose their exploratory capacity," said Dr Malucci. "What we've shown is we can reverse that and get full functional recovery." …
The UCL team is screening a vast array of drugs to identify if any can be used to stop prion production, but the next step in their research will investigate whether gene therapy can be used to switch off prion production in mice once they have developed prion disease. …
Ian Sample, 'Guardian Unlimited'