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Veterans Affairs Researchers Induce a New Transmissible Prion Disease
Date:2/26/2010

Researchers at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine have conducted a study on prion disease and found that transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) can be induced without an outside catalyst like a virus. TSE (also known as prion diseases) are a group of progressive conditions affecting the brain and nervous systems of many animals and humans.

Baltimore (Vocus) February 27, 2010 -- Researchers at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine have conducted a study on prion disease and found that transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) can be induced without an outside catalyst like a virus. TSE (also known as prion diseases) are a group of progressive conditions affecting the brain and nervous systems of many animals and humans. The conditions include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human form of mad cow disease), Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome, fatal familial insomnia and kuru, all forming a spectrum of overlapping signs and symptoms caused by a myriad of tiny holes in the cortex that give it the appearance of a sponge. The disease impairs brain functions leading to both mental and physical deterioration over time.

Using a synthetic prion protein made in E. coli, the researchers induced a new form of TSE. Their study findings—published in January 2010 issue of Acta Neuropathol (with open access at Springerlink.com)— indicate a slow progression of the disease after the observance of first clinical signs, which is typical of how the disease unfolds in both humans and large animals, than in smaller animals such as rodents.

One of the study’s lead researchers, Robert Rohwer, PhD, director of Molecular Neurovirology Laboratory at the VA Maryland Health Care System and an associate professor at the University of Maryland School
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