Researchers discover protein thought linked to cause of CJD

December 30, 2001 The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo)
A research team of Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine in Hokkaido has discovered a protein that is closely linked with an abnormally shaped prion thought to cause mad cow disease and its human variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD), sources said Saturday.

The research team is headed by Prof. Morikazu Shinagawa and assistant professor Motohiro Horiuchi. A prion is a protein particle deficient in nucleic acid and is sometimes held to be the cause of various infectious disease.

The sources said that by studying what happens when the newly discovered antibody welds with a mutated prion, the group hopes to shed more light on the process. Their research could lead to new diagnoses and medical treatments for mad cow disease and CJD, the sources said.

Normal prions exist in the bodies of many creatures and play an unknown role. When a normal prion mutates it is thought to cause fatal diseases characterized by a damaged nervous system, including mad cow disease, CDJ and scrapie, a disease similar to mad cow disease carried by sheep.

When an abnormal prion enters a body, it rearranges the three-dimensional structure of a normal prion and changes them into abnormal ones at a rapidly accelerating rate.

The tenacious abnormal prions increase and accumulate in the nervous system.

It is helpful to discover the structure of a pathogen, such as the abnormal prion, because when one enters a body the immune system will create an antibody to fight it.

In 1997, a Swiss researcher released a report on the specific antibody that develops when an abnormal prion enters the body, but he did not reveal detailed data nor release further research.

As a result, researchers around the world have been trying to discover the antibody.

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