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Prions may cause Alzheimer's

Similarity found with destructive protein behind mad cow

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8:02pm, December 13, 2012

2012 SCIENCE NEWS TOP 25: 10

An infectious, self-replicating protein might be at the heart of Alzheimer’s disease, a growing number of studies suggest. If correct, this idea could change how scientists view the condition, which affects 5.4 million Americans.

A tiny seed of a dangerous protein could corrupt other harmless proteins, the theory goes, creating and unleashing a destructive army in the brain. And this process might not be restricted to Alzheimer’s. Some researchers believe the spread of such proteins in the brain could explain other devastating disorders such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

In Alzheimer’s, the possible infectious agent under scrutiny is a protein called amyloid-beta, best known as the main ingredient in the hulking, sticky gobs of plaque found in the brains of people with the disease. It turns out that A-be

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