Scientists have added fat cells to the roster of bodily tissues and organs that may harbor infective prions, the renegade misfolded proteins that are believed to cause scrapie in sheep and mad cow disease in cattle. Research on mice infected with scrapie, reported in the Dec. 5 PLoS Pathogens, suggests that fat cells in other animals should also be investigated.
In the new work, scientists examined two strains of mice infected with scrapie, testing tissues including brain, skeletal muscle, tongue, white fat, brown fat, liver and blood plasma for infectivity (meaning that injecting the tissue in a healthy animal would make it sick). Both kinds of fat cells were infective, as were the other tissues, reported a team led by Bruce Chesebro, chief of the National Institutes of Health’s Laboratory of Persistent Viral Diseases in Hamilton, Mont.
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