Immune systems fighting prions; older might be better
New research from scientists at The Roslin Institute is offering new insights into why vCJD appears to mainly affect the young.
The research, published in the Journal of General Virology, suggests that having a healthy immune system seems to be central to vCJD development. Indeed, mice that lack a functional immune system have a lower susceptibility to prion disease. The misfolded prions appear to hijack the defence system that protects against bacterial and viral infection, using it to gain access to the nervous system and, ultimately, the brain.
Dr Neil Mabbott, one of the co-authors of the study, describes the movement of the prions as 'a relay', which begins in the small intestine.
The Society for General Microbiology has published an excellent blog covering the background to the research, which has shed new light on the possible mechanisms of prion infection.