Causes of vCJD 'protect against Alzheimer's'

Prions, the cause of mad cow disease, may protect against Alzheimer's disease, UK study findings suggest.

Similarities between Alzheimer's and diseases such as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) have been noted.

The latest study of laboratory- grown brain cells showed that normal prions produced by the body could help prevent the beta amyloid plaques that build up in the brain to cause Alzheimer's.

In comparison, when the level of prion protein was low or absent, beta amyloid formation was found to increase.

The team also looked at mice that had been genetically engineered to lack prion proteins and again found that beta amyloid proteins were able to form.

Next, they want to look at how the prion protein controls beta amyloid in the hope of producing anti-Alzheimer's drugs.

PNAS Online 2007

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