Thursday, February 26, 2009

Prions involved in Alzheimer disease?

Does your A&P textbook explain what prions are and how they can become involved in disease?

Mine does.

Besides their roles in "mad cow" disease and vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease), it turns out that these mysterious proteins may be involved in additional disease mechanisms in additional, unexpected ways.

Today, Science News published a great summary article on how researchers have evidence that leads them to suspect that normal prion proteins (pictured) present in the brains of mice may play a role in the development of Alzheimer disease. (The usual functions of normal prion proteins have not been fully explained yet. This research may help to further unravel that mystery as well.)

To find out more, check out:

Prions Complicit in Alzheimer's Disease
L. Sanders Science News accessed 25 February 2009
[Summary article explaining the new findings and possible implications]

'Harmless' prion protein linked to Alzheimer's disease
H. Ledford Nature 25 February 2009

[Summary article featuring a great image of the amyloid-β peptides associated with AD]

Cellular prion protein mediates impairment of synaptic plasticity by amyloid-b oligomers.
Lauren, J., et al. Nature 457, 1128-1132 (2009). In press. doi:10.1038/nature07761
[The original research article cited in the above summaries. Not yet available online.]

Here's a video (a bit dated, but still useful):

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