Another piece of good news amidst all the gloom and doom
Scientists say they have proof that it will one day be possible to prevent diseases such as vCJD and BSE. It is thought that these diseases, and others that also progressively destroy the brain, are caused by rogue particles called prions. A team from Imperial College in London has discovered the development of prion disease can be prevented in mice using molecules produced by the immune system called monoclonal antibodies.
Prions are proteins that bind to normal proteins in the brain and twist them into abnormal shapes. These then clump together, causing brain damage. Monoclonal antibodies work by binding to both prions and normal proteins, blocking them from binding to each other. Although the work is in its infancy and clinical studies with patients are some years away, the results raise the real possibility that a similar therapy might work on humans. The Imperial team carried out a 17-month study on mice who were infected with prions which cause the disease scrapie. Mice treated with monoclonal antibodies have shown no sign of developing scrapie - a year after the untreated mice succumbed to disease. The monoclonal antibodies appear to have stopped the conversion of normal prion protein into the abnormal infectious form, preventing it accumulating.
Source: BBC News