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New MRI technique may predict progress of dementias
Date:4/10/2012

e diseases in a diffusive, prion-like propagation."

A prion is an infectious, misfolded form of a normal protein. These proteins leave destructive amyloid deposits in the brains in which they develop, causing degeneration and eventual death. They are responsible for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow" disease, in cattle. In 1997, neurologist Stanley B. Prusiner of UCSF was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering and characterizing the prion. His finding overturned a tenet of modern biology, showing that a protein, rather than just the molecules DNA and RNA, could cause infection.

"The idea of a prion-like mode of progression in dementias, which many scientists are beginning to support, is that the misfolded protein in one neuron will infect a neighboring brain cell, causing proteins in that cell to misfold in turn, and that the spread of these misfolded proteins flows along certain networks in the brain," explained Weiner. "For instance, in Alzheimer's, there is a spread of amyloid protein along the memory network. This paper reinforces the idea that the damage occurs progressively along that network and others."

Weiner emphasized that Alzheimer's and frontotemporal dementia "are not infectious diseases" like Creutzfeldt-Jakob. But he said "it may be that a little seed of the disease begins in one neuron in the brain and spreads in a similar way so it's infectious within the brain, from one neuron to the next."


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Contact: Steve Tokar
steve.tokar@ncire.org
415-221-4810 x5202
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert  

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