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First Direct Information About Prion's Molecular Structure Reported

A collaboration between scientists at Vanderbilt University and the University of California, San Francisco has led to the first direct information about the molecular structure of prions. In addition, the study has revealed surprisingly large structural differences between natural prions and the closest synthetic analogs that scientists have created in the lab.

Prions are the infectious proteins responsible for human Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease, scrapie in sheep and several other related nervous system disorders in mammals. For a number of years, scientists have been using the tools of genetic engineering to create synthetic versions of these particles so they could study them more easily. Although researchers have made particles that appear identical to natural prions, they have had trouble duplicating their infectious behavior.
 
 

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