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  • Leeds Research Finds new Piece of BSE Puzzle

Leeds Research Finds new Piece of BSE Puzzle

Mar 29 2010 Read 716 Times

A new treatment route for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and its human form Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (CJD) could be a step closer thanks to a discovery by scientists at the University of Leeds who have discovered that protein Glypican-1 plays a key role in the development of BSE.

BSE is known to be caused by an infectious and abnormal form of the prion protein which is present on cells within the nervous system. But scientists have been unclear as to what causes the prions to become abnormal.

The new research from Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences shows that the presence of Glypican-1 causes the numbers of abnormal prion proteins to rise. In experiments, when levels of Glypican-1 were reduced in infected cells, the levels of the abnormal prion reduced as well.

The discovery was a mixture of scientific detective work and luck, according to Professor of Biochemistry, Nigel Hooper.

“We were looking at how the normal prion protein functions in cells and spotted that it was interacting with something,” he said. “Some lateral thinking and deduction led us to Glypican- 1 and when we carried out the experiment, we found we were right.”

The team believe that Glypican-1 acts as a scaffold bringing the two forms of the prion protein together and that this contact causes normal prions to mutate into the infectious form. They are seeking further funding to investigate their hypothesis.

“Now that we know the identity of one of the key molecules in the disease process, we may in the future be able to design drugs that target this.”

While initial experiments haven’t shown any link with other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, we’re not yet completely ruling that out,” said Professor Hooper.

The research is published in PLoS Pathogens (Nov 20).and was mainly funded through the Wellcome Trust with additional support from the Medical Research Council.

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