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Evolutionary Origins Of Prion Disease Gene Uncovered

A University of Toronto-led team has uncovered the evolutionary ancestry of the prion gene, which may reveal new understandings of how the prion protein causes diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as "mad cow disease."

Diseased prion proteins are responsible for the fatal neurodegenerative Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans, and BSE, scrapie and chronic wasting disease (CWD) in livestock. Overall, this work holds promise for efforts to reveal the physiological function of members of the prion protein family and may provide insights into the origins and underlying constraints of the conformational changes associated with prion diseases. The study was published on September 28, 2009, in the online journal PLoS ONE.

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