Page last updated at 12:40 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

Scientists make mad cow discovery

Artist's impression of prion protein
The discovery concerns abnormal proteins at cell level

Scientists at the University of Leeds say they have made a significant discovery which could help in the treatment of "mad cow disease".

The team found a protein which assists in the development of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and its human form Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD).

The protein Glypican-1 was found to cause other proteins in the nervous system to become abnormal.

Professor Nigel Hooper said the find may also help to fight Alzheimer's.

BSE is known to be caused by an abnormal form of prion protein which develop on cells within the nervous system.

However it had previously been unclear why these proteins became abnormal.

Designing drugs

Researchers at the Faculty of Biological Sciences in Leeds discovered that the presence of protein Glypican-1 in cells caused the number of abnormal prion proteins to rise.

Professor Hooper explained: "We were looking at how the normal prion protein functions in cells and spotted that it was interacting with something.

"Some lateral thinking and deduction led us to Glypican-1 and when we carried out the experiment, we found we were right.

The scientists found that Glypican-1 acts as a scaffold bringing two forms of the prion protein together which then causes normal prions to mutate into an infectious form.

Professor Hooper said: "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."

He added that it was possible the discovery of the influence of Glypican-1 could have implications for the treatment of other serious diseases.

"While initial experiments haven't shown any link with other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's , we're not yet completely ruling that out", he said.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Tribes resistance could help CJD
19 Nov 09 |  Health
Coroners 'reject plea over vCJD'
19 Aug 09 |  Health
'Silent infection' warning over vCJD
19 Aug 09 |  Health

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific