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Protein sheds insight into spread of vCJD to the brain

A protein linked to the immune system could play a key role in helping scientists understand how vCJD spreads throughout the body.

Protein sheds insight into spread of vCJD to the brain

A protein linked to the immune system could play a key role in helping scientists understand how vCJD spreads throughout the body.

Researchers found that they could thwart the spread of vCJD by preventing production of the protein in just one type of immune cell.

The study by The Roslin Institute, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC),could lead to treatments to stop vCJD spreading from the spleen, the original site of infection, to the brain where the disease destroys nerve cells.

However, any treatments would be viable only if scientists are able to find a way to diagnose the condition in its early stages.

If we can find a way of stopping this protein from being expressed by specific immune cells then we could potentially block the spread of the disease to the brain. We also want to understand how cells are infected with vCJD in the first place, so that we can look at ways of stopping this from happening and find ways to diagnose the disease at its early stages.

Neil MabbottThe Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh

The study, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences, looked at production of the protein - called PrP C - in specific immune cells.

These c - follicular dendritic cells - act like spider's webs, attracting foreign particles, which can then be disposed of by the body's immune system.

The researchers found that when the cells expressed PrP C, corrupted proteins responsible for vCJD, known as prions, were able to replicate and spread throughout the body.However, when the cells were prevented from producing PrP C, the prions were not able to multiply and were destroyed by other cells.

Stopping these cells from expressing this protein did not affect the regular function of the immune system. The study is published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

 

For more information please contact:

Tara Womersley

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