The BSE crisis that was once confined to the UK is spreading throughout Europe. Thousands of cattle are being slaughtered on the off-chance that they carry the disease. Worse still, scientists are unsure how many people are carrying the human form of the disease, vCJD. To prevent the widespread slaughter and to determine how many people are infected, what is needed is an effective diagnostic test for the deadly neurodegenerative prion.
Michael Clinton and colleagues at the Roslin Institute in Scotland may have the answer with the identification of a molecular marker for prion disease that is easily detectable in readily accessible tissues (Nature Medicine, Vol. 7, No.3, 01 Mar 2001). Based on the hypothesis that prions replicate in lymphoreticular organs-spleen, tonsils, appendix and lymph nodes-before they enter the CNS, the team examined these tissues. They detected a dramatic decrease in the RNA for a protein called erythroid differentiation-related factor (EDRF) in animals infected with a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. However, the scientists do not know how this downregulation of erythroid activity relates to infection.
Prion expert Adriano Aguzzi discusses the findings in an accompanying News & Views article and the potential that EDRF will become a diagnostic marker for prion diseases.
Dr. Michael Clinton
Division of Gene Expression and Development,
Tel: 44 01 31 527 4200
Fax: 44 01 31 440 0434
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza