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February 11, 2010

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Researchers get closer to cure for mad cow

THE search for a cure for mad cow disease is getting warmer, as researchers in Shanghai and the United States have proven a hypothesis about the disease's origins, university officials said yesterday.

Scientists of East China Normal University and Ohio State University used a disease carrier they developed to prove a hypothesis that it's mis-folded Prion protein - a protein widely existing in mammals' brains - and not a virus that causes the transmissible spongiform brain disease, which is known as mad cow disease when it occurred to cows.

The protein-only theory won its developer Stanley Prusiner the Nobel prize in 1997 but didn't appease the controversy about the disease mechanism without the support of a lab experiment.


The finding, which lays a foundation for developing treatment therapy and medicine for disease, has been published by Science magazine, officials from East China Normal University said yesterday.

"The research proved that healthy Prion proteins became mis-folded, too, under the power of a sick one," said Yuan Chonggang, one of the researchers and a professor at the university's School of Life Science.

According to the Science report, researchers developed mis-folded Prion protein in the lab and injected it into the brains of 15 normal mice.

Within about 130 days, all of the animals took ill: their heads twitched, they lost muscle tissue, and they became lethargic. The animals died several months later.

After being injected with the sick protein, healthy Prion proteins became mis-folded, too, and the proteins in their brain soon died, Yang said.

Zhang Suhua, director of Shanghai Livestock Office, is very excited about the research finding. "The disease-carrier mice may help to work out possible therapies and drugs in the future," he said.


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