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LEAD: Team succeeds in delaying onset of prion disease symptoms.

TOKYO, Nov. 22 Kyodo


A team of researchers said Tuesday that they recently succeeded in delaying the onset of symptoms of prion disease, widely known for brain-wasting effects in mad cow disease, by inoculating mice with normal prion proteins taken from other animals.

The study was led by Suehiro Sakaguchi, an assistant professor at Nagasaki University, and Daisuke Ishibashi, a researcher at the Japan Science and Technology Agency. It was presented Tuesday at a meeting of the Japanese Society for Virology in Yokohama.

While the method poses some safety concerns, the researchers believe that it paves the way for preventing prion-triggered diseases, including mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and its human form, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.

Prion diseases are caused when abnormal prion proteins in the animal's body change the form of normal prion proteins.

While studies are being conducted to immunize animals by injecting abnormal prion proteins, the method does not always succeed in creating antibodies, because abnormal prion proteins are different from normal ones only in their shape.

Sakaguchi's team found that mice create antibodies when they are injected with normal prion proteins from different mammals, including cows, sheep and humans.

In an experiment, researchers measured how long it took for a group of mice artificially infected with abnormal prion proteins in the abdomen to develop disease symptoms.

Those injected with normal prion proteins taken from cows took 332 days, and those injected with proteins from sheep took 316 days to develop symptoms, while the mice that were not injected with prion proteins developed symptoms in 293 days.

Sakaguchi says the researchers believe that the antibodies destroy normal prion proteins as well as abnormal ones, but the study shows that the prion diseases could be preventable.

''We want to find out the mechanism in which animals develop immunity against the disease and want to develop a more powerful vaccine,'' Sakaguchi said.
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Publication:Japan Science Scan
Date:Nov 28, 2005
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