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Mice hope in search for mad cow cure.

SCIENTISTS in Britain have successfully reversed the symptoms of mad cow disease in mice.

Researchers managed to rid the rodents of memory and behavioural problems associated with BSE and its human equivalent, variant CJD.

The breakthrough raises hopes of similar treatments for humans who have been struck down with the devastating disease.

Since 1990, 158 people have died from definite or probable vCJD and a further seven believed to have the disease are still alive.

Donna-Marie McGivern, 17, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, became Scotland's youngest victim in 1999.

Most of the victims developed the disease as a result of eating infected beef during the 1980s.

But last year, an expert warned thousands of people could be at risk of developing vCJD from infected blood transfusions.

VCJD is associated with rogue prion proteins in the brain, which appear to cause serious damage.

But scientists from the Medical Research Council stopped the spread of disease by genetically switching off production of normal prion protein.

Even though the mice were displaying symptoms, they recovered normal behaviour patterns.

Dr Giovanna Mallucci, from the MRC Prion Unit in London, said: "The challenge now is to be able to detect early disease in humans and to develop treatments that can remove normal prion protein."

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VICTIM: Donna-Marie
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:211
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