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

of Medicine, says the result is an “important milestone in establishing that the native wild-type prion protein is sufficient to induce prion disease in normal wild-type hosts. The interpretation of previous transmissions with synthetic prion proteins has been confounded by the use of mutant proteins and mutant host recipients subject to spontaneous disease.”

This result, Rohwer said, does not explain the many discrepancies “that have supported skeptics of the prion hypothesis like myself, and there is enormous work yet to be done to reconcile these apparent inconsistencies. However, the new insights, tools and focus provided by these discoveries promise to greatly accelerate the pace of those efforts.” Rohwer noted that the disease being induced “was itself unique and fascinating” and may prove valuable as a window on its progression in humans, cattle and sheep.

Rohwer, together with Ilia Backakov, PhD, an associate professor at the School of Medicine and director of the Prion Insitute at the University of Maryland’s Biotechnolgical Institute, inoculated Golden Syrian hamsters with synthetic E.coli recombinant prion proteins, while at the same time inoculating other hamsters with comprehensive slightly altered controls. During this first passage, all but two of the hamsters survived to old age (18 months) without any sign of disease. The researchers investigated the brains of each hamster at 18 months old for evidence of the TSE infection, finding that one animal showed definite signs of infection and one suspicious. They homogenized the brains of both the possibly infected and apparently uninfected animals that had been inoculated with prion protein and some control group hamsters, and then inoculated the homogenates in new animals. Again the animals appeared normal for more than a year after the inoculation, but then the animals began developing symptoms of TSE disease.

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