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Video: Prions - ninja pathogens and immune system hijackers

Professor Neil Mabbott shows how prions exploit the immune system to infect the body and how to stop them from causing brain disease.

Prion diseases are a unique group of brain diseases in animals and humans which cause extensive damage to nerve cells in the brain. There is currently no effective treatment or cure for prion diseases.

Some prion diseases can be transmitted to other animals through consumption of contaminated food. For example, food contaminated with BSE prions from cattle (the so-called “mad cow” disease) was responsible for the prion disease variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

Soon after infection, the prions first accumulate in tissues of the body’s immune system such as the spleen, lymph nodes and tonsils, before spreading to the brain where they destroy nerve cells.

During his lecture on 19 March 2018, Roslin researcher Professor Neil Mabbott describes his research which shows how the prions exploit certain cells and components of the immune system to infect the body, and how this information may be used to block the spread of prions to the brain.

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