Prions complicit in Alzheimer’s disease | Science News

MISSION CRITICAL

Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


News

Prions complicit in Alzheimer’s disease

Supposedly harmless version plays a role in neuron malfunction

By
12:55pm, February 25, 2009

Prion protein, notorious for causing the brain-wasting mad cow and Creutzfeldt-Jakob diseases, may also be a coconspirator in Alzheimer’s disease, a new study in mice suggests.

In mad cow and Creutzfeldt-Jakob diseases, misshapen prion proteins do the damage. But the new paper, appearing February 26 in Nature, offers evidence that the harmless version of the prion protein assists the amyloid-beta protein responsible for brain cell death in Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s pretty sensational,” comments Adriano Aguzzi, a neuropathologist at the University of Zurich. “What’s tremendously electrifying is that prion protein may be a genetic sensor for extremely toxic, small concentrations of A-beta.”

A-beta proteins can travel alone or in groups in the brain. On their own, A-beta proteins are harmless. Massive, insoluble clumps of A-beta, known as plaques, are probably harmless, too, says study coauthor Stephen

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content