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Five UCSF Scientists Elected to National Academy of Sciences
Date:5/4/2009

re refined through the action of mechanisms of neural plasticity in combination with specific molecular signals. In lab studies, Stryker's team induces brain plasticity through manipulations of genes or visual experience or by pharmacological or neurophysiological intervention in order to discover what cellular mechanisms and what changes in cortical circuitry are responsible for rapid, long lasting changes in neuronal responses. They analyze these changes using microelectrode recordings, novel techniques for measurement of optical and metabolic signals related to neural activity, including 2-photon microscopy and intrinsic signal imaging, and anatomical and neurochemical tracing of connections.

Weissman's lab studies the cellular machinery that ensures proper protein folding, and the consequences of protein misfolding, particularly as relates to the prion. The lab also focuses on systems biology -- the development of approaches and tools to probe complex interactions in biological systems.

In a seminal series of studies, his lab developed an approach for creating in a test tube infectious "prion" forms of a protein. This work yielded the first direct demonstration of the "protein only" hypothesis proposed by UCSF Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner, which proposed that prions represent a new class of infectious particles composed solely of a host protein.

Weissman's ability to create synthetic prions also provided a powerful system for studying some of the most perplexing features of prion biology, including "species barriers," which inhibit transmission between even closely related prion proteins, and prion strains wherein infectious particles composed of the same protein give rise to markedly different heritable prion states. His work established that strains are "encoded" within the conformation of the misfolded protein itself, thereby resolving one of the major mysteries of the prion field since,
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