Mad Cows and Molecular Biology

Rich Young young at
Thu Apr 4 11:50:42 EST 1996

Michael S. Straka (mike.straka at wrote:


: I haven't kept current w/ the prion literature but I was quite 
: interested in it for a while; it's a truly fascinating entity.  Perhaps
: one of the reasons for the lack of acceptance is that two of the 
: proposed mechanisms of prion replication violate the central dogma of
: molecular biology: that genetic information flows from nucleic acids to
: proteins.  While I agree that very often the paradigm-in-fashion stifles 
: conflicting viewpoints, and even though I find prions to be extremely 
: interesting critters, the strength of the evidence in favor of direct
: involvement of prions, (ten years ago), seemed exciting, yet not entirely 
: convincing.  For one thing, the particle had not been reconstituted and 
: shown to be biologically active.  That may well have changed...    Even
: so, it appears we have not heard the last of this story.

	If memory serves, a recent (i. e., last year) article in Nature
	described the protein involved as one commonly found in brain
	tissue, but in the case of CJD, et. al., folded in a way that
	not only prevented its normal function, but also encouraged
	the "folding" of otherwise normal versions of the molecule into
	the inactive state, thus "replicating" itself.  There are, however,
	many questions left to be answered, not the least of which is
	how the protein makes it through digestion, and having accomplished
	that, through the blood-brain barrier.

: I found it humorous, and then sad, that the popular press has chosen
: to characterize mad cow disease as something new.  Sure, this outbreak
: may be new, but the diseases I mentioned above have been around for 
: a number of years.


	I think there's a lot more hype than science being reported in
	the popular press...this whole thing reminds me of the "Flesh-
	Eating Bacteria" scare a short while ago.

-Rich Young

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