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Prions Observed Jumping Species Barrier

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the only-applies-if-you-have-brain-tissue dept.

Medicine 214

palegray.net writes "Nature is reporting on new findings that prions jump species barriers. Believed to be responsible for ailments such as Creutzfeld-Jakob disease and 'mad cow' disease, prions are thought to disrupt biological processes by causing normal proteins to fold abnormally. Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston have observed infectious prions from hamsters causing abnormal protein development in mice, along with a range of other observations on prion actions in test tube environments. From the article: '... they also found that when a prion jumps species, it produces a new kind of prion. "This is very worrisome," says Claudio Soto, who led the research, published in Cell. "The universe of possible prions could be much larger than we thought."' Sounds like another good reason to donate your spare CPU cycles to projects like Folding@home."

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comparison (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915375)

"Prions" sounds like "Prius" which is the car that lesbians drive. They bump clams(also known as "scisssoring") and clam-dive with their mouths.

Re:comparison (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915445)

Mods, note that the parent post is NOT offtopic. It's talking about mad cows.

Re:comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915535)

LOL.

Re:comparison (1)

buswolley (591500) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916317)

Jim the crowbar is in my prion.

Denny Crane (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915561)

Denny Crane. Denny Crane.

Re:comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915639)

sorry..had to reply to change my moderation - damn automatic mod system :/

Folding@Home (0, Offtopic)

martinw89 (1229324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915389)

On the flip side, if your energy source is dirty, turning off F@H might be more beneficial in the long run. It's a trade off.

Re:Folding@Home (5, Insightful)

ozphx (1061292) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915447)

Instead of donating energy to run Folding on your inefficient PC, where the results have to be triple-checked - consider just donating money directly to the project instead of via your power bill.

Runtime on a trusted supercomputer / local cluster is going to be an order of magnitude more efficient in terms of data crunched per watt-hour.

Re:Folding@Home (1)

martinw89 (1229324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915469)

That's a good point, I've never thought about that route before.

Re:Folding@Home (4, Insightful)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915481)

Or do both. I think they'll be glad for any CPU and especially any GPU cycles.

Re:Folding@Home (2, Funny)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916157)

Or do all four: both, twice.

Rosetta @ home (4, Informative)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916301)

For this issue Rosetta at home (Boinc) might be a better choice for protein structure. It's already wokring on the prion problem.

Re:Folding@Home (5, Informative)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915759)

>Runtime on a trusted supercomputer / local cluster is going to be an order of magnitude more efficient in terms of data crunched per watt-hour.

Problem is, there ain't no such thing on this planet.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folding@home [wikipedia.org]

"On September 16, 2007, the Folding@home project officially attained a performance level higher than one petaFLOPS, becoming the first computing system of any kind to do so, although it had briefly peaked above one petaFLOPS in March 2007.[14][15]. In comparison, the fastest supercomputer in the world (as of June 2008, IBM's Roadrunner) peaks at 1.026 petaFLOPS[16]. In early May 2008 the project attained a sustained performance level higher than two petaFLOPS, again being the first computing system of any kind to do so. Now Folding@home computing cluster operates at above 2 petaFLOPS at all times, with a large majority of the performance coming from PlayStation 3 and GPU clients.[2] On August 20, 2008, the Folding@home project broke the three petaFLOPS milestone, once again being the first computing project of any kind in history to ever do so.[2]"

Re:Folding@Home (5, Informative)

RickRussellTX (755670) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915775)

Depends on when you run it. Coal plants burn more coal at night than they need for electricity to keep the furnaces hot for peak usage periods. If you run F@H between 9PM and 6AM, you're actually not having much impact on fossil fuel use, pollution or carbon footprint.

That's why electric utilities and some companies [google.org] are developing programs to make the best use of off-peak power. Electric cars, for example, are exciting because they could engage timers that charge them only during off-peak [greencarcongress.com] .

F@H could do the same in principle, with a check-box to run only during late hours. I don't know if they have that feature now.

Re:Folding@Home (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916331)

Wow, that's one of the most informative comments I've seen on Slashdot in a while. I've tended to run distributed computing clients on servers during off-peak processing hours (typically at night), and it looks like that choice is both good for business and the environment. Thanks for the info!

Self-righteous asshole... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24916173)

Suck on my cock and save money by not paying for food. Twit...

Re:Self-righteous asshole... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24916359)

Suck on my cock and save money by not paying for food. Twit...

I can't seem to find your penis... are you certain you've got one?

Re:Folding@Home (2, Insightful)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915455)

It's like every /. article is an opportunity to espouse the same posts in a previous article. Let me save all the future posters their breathe...

Dirty energy is bad.
Global Warming.
Creationists are dumb.
DMCA is stoopid.
OMG zero day is here!

There, someone e-mail me when there's a comment worth reading.

Re:Folding@Home (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915541)

My CPU is usually idle, but I don't like listening to the fan when it is running full tilt.

Re:Folding@Home (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915985)

Then maybe your problem is that your CPU has a fan. ;)

More seriously: I cool my PC passively trough convection. Sure the convectors are huge, but in a place where i don't see them anyway. And I don't need to turn on the radiator of the room.

Re:Folding@Home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915547)

You didn't leave your e-mail address. I have a wonderful comment about a wealthy Nigerian prince that I'm sure you'd want to read.

Re:Folding@Home (3, Funny)

maglor_83 (856254) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915551)

Your email isn't shown publicly, so I have decided to reply instead.
There is a very insightful comment here [slashdot.org]

Re:Folding@Home (0)

chemisus (920383) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915715)

you forgot, "in soviet russia... home folds you!"

Re:Folding@Home (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915743)

No problem. Just post your email address here, and I'm sure someone will be happy to let you know...

Re:Folding@Home (3, Interesting)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915963)

It's like every /. article is an opportunity to espouse the same posts in a previous article. Let me save all the future posters their breathe...

Dirty energy is bad.
Global Warming.
Creationists are dumb.
DMCA is stoopid.
OMG zero day is here!

There, someone e-mail me when there's a comment worth reading.

I think there's some inherent vulnerability of internet discussion sites to virulent memes. If you look at Digg at the moment it's got to the point where 50% of the stories on the front page are some dubious looking slur on Palin. A few months ago 50% of them where dubious looking slurs on Hilary. And a few months before that they were all posts containing that 09 F9 magic key. 4chan is plagued by self replicating javascripts because it doesn't have a CAPTCHA, but digg and slashdot get a different sort of replicator, one which needs human interaction to spread.

It's like someone posts a meme, people mod/digg it up, there is a backlash, then more people digg it up and post it. People that disagree are eventually forced out. Eventually the meme uses up 50% of the bandwidth.

Re:Folding@Home (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916293)

Eventually the meme uses up 50% of the bandwidth.

In Soviet Russia, bandwidth is 50% of memes!

Rudimentary (2, Interesting)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915413)

Considering that we force feed cows and chickens the meat bi-products of the industry, we're actually causing a great deal of this to happen. In a perfect world we'd not feed herbivores rudiments and accelerate this type of process. But then again, garbage in garbage out, we deserve what we get.

Re:Rudimentary (4, Informative)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915587)

Considering that we force feed cows and chickens the meat bi-products of the industry.

That's been illegal in the U.S. for cows for many years. I'm not sure about the current law for chickens. From a 2003 USAToday [usatoday.com] article:

The United States and Canada in 1997 made it illegal to feed cows meat and bone meal made from ruminants. The feed bans in both countries do allow use of that feed for poultry and pigs.

Re:Rudimentary (4, Informative)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915847)

[sarcasm]I'm sure there are plenty of inspectors to enforce that law as well.[/sarcasm]

Mad cow disease, just so you understand it, is prion based. It does not just randomly happen. It is impossible for the brain to just make up prions. It must first come in contact with them by consumption or injection. Considering the fact that no one goes around injecting the bovine population with syringes filled with prions we must conclude a cow get's them by ingestion. That would mean that a "mad cow" infected animal got that why be eating the brain or spinal tissue of another MAMMAL.

http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/release.cfm?ID=1629 [citizen.org]

http://www.organicconsumers.org/madcow/silence51104.cfm [organicconsumers.org]

http://www.goveg.com/ABD_madcow.asp [goveg.com]

Re:Rudimentary (1)

wormBait (1358529) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915913)

Certain mutations that cause misfolding of proteins will de novo generate novel prions. However, as they take a long time to accumulate and feed cows are usually killed very young, they are primarily transmitted via feeding. While cows are not fed to cows, sheep and cows (and other mammals) are commonly cross-fed to each other.

Re:Rudimentary (2, Informative)

MicktheMech (697533) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916071)

The GP wrote...

The United States and Canada in 1997 made it illegal to feed cows meat and bone meal made from ruminants. The feed bans in both countries do allow use of that feed for poultry and pigs.

Since both sheep and cows are ruminants, that would mean that they aren't fed to each other. At least sheep wouldn't be fed to cows, the quote doesn't state anything about sheep feed.

Re:Rudimentary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915981)

Considering the fact that no one goes around injecting the bovine population with syringes filled with prions we must conclude a cow get's them by ingestion.

Yeah, and I have yet to meet anyone who can explain to me why prions are not broken down into amino acids during digestion, like all other proteins are...

Re:Rudimentary (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24916105)

Because not all proteins are broken down into amino acids during digestion like hair for example.

Re:Rudimentary (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24916137)

Wow, prions are like apostrophes. Once you see one moron misuse them you start misusing them too! "get's", dude? Get is, get was, something belonging to the "get"?

"t is impossible for the brain to just make up prions."

What are you babbling about? Prions are naturally in the brain, just folded the right way. Bad prions fold the bad way.

Re:Rudimentary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915959)

Well, then I guess its a really good thing that nobody ever does anything illegal in the U.S

I was concerned there for a second... whew

Re:Rudimentary (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916291)

nice sarcasm there....
I'm more afraid of what people in the US would do on purpose than I am of what might happen by accident. Can I just mention foreign owned ports inspecting goods from foreign lands... Chinese cat food for dinner anyone?

When farmers and ranchers want to have all their stock inspected they run into government intervention to prevent it.

The way the US government is run in this and many other respects, all I can tell you is that if you wake up tomorrow, call it a good day.

Yeah, no links... Google for it

Re:Rudimentary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915995)

Considering that we force feed cows and chickens the meat bi-products of the industry.

That's been illegal in the U.S. for cows for many years. I'm not sure about the current law for chickens. From a 2003 USAToday [usatoday.com] article:

The United States and Canada in 1997 made it illegal to feed cows meat and bone meal made from ruminants. The feed bans in both countries do allow use of that feed for poultry and pigs.

It is also illegal here in Australia. However there is a _minority_ of farmers (you know the real redneck hicks) that don't care and will do anything to save a few pennies and just 'cause 'those city slicker politicians' tell them it's illegal they do it anyway because those other city slickers (the scientists) don't know what they're on about y'know.

Re:Rudimentary (5, Informative)

dubyrunning (1359729) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916131)

That's been illegal in the U.S. for cows for many years.

Not so. The FDA ban on feeding cattle protein to cattle excepts proteins derived from blood products and fat, and beef tallow is still used as a feed supplement at cattle farms. Also, since the bovine meat and bonemeal that used to be fed to cattle are still fed to other food stock like pigs and chickens - whose meal is, in turn, an accepted protein supplement for cattle - there is still a chance that infectious prions could find their way back into cattle (and us). Check out Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, for more info.

Re:Rudimentary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24916345)

That may be true, but it is legal, and common practice, to feed cow products to poultry, and then feed poultry bedding (straw, poop, etc.) back to cows. In addition to being a rather disgusting practice, the bedding includes lots of dropped chicken food, partly composed of the forbidden cow products. Therefore, though directly feeding cow products to cows may be illegal, it is legal to do so indirectly.

Corrected article link (4, Informative)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915443)

For those with access to the journal Cell [cell.com] , you can view The Castilla, et al, paper [cell.com] online (this abstract should be available for all). The nature link in the summary goes to a write-up about the article, not the actual article itself.

Those with subscriptions to Cell can also get the full text [cell.com] , Full Text in PDF [cell.com] , and the Supplementary Data [cell.com] .

Re:Corrected article link (1)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915521)

Haven't they proved this happening before by the fact that mad cow disease travels from tainted beef to humans? Or was that what they think caused the disease and they had no way of proving the jump with out risking someone's health?

Re:Corrected article link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915581)

Yup. Girlfriend is a veterinarian, and says it's old news

Re:Corrected article link (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916171)

That's just hippy propaganda. Meat makes you a bit staggery, that's all.

Re:Corrected article link (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916027)

There was circumstantial (epidemiological) evidence that vCJD appeared mostly (or only, can't remember) in heavy beef consumers. Obviously, you can't *prove* it without experiments. But it has been proven that animals do get infected by feeding them prions from other species so it was assumed that this applies to humans too. Now, being able study the infection in vitro, they should be able to prove which prions can infect humans, and maybe come up with a test that doesn't require dissecting the brain.

The bigger story (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915457)

Nature is reporting on new findings that prions jump species barriers

It's confirmed. Our planet (i.e. Nature) is sentient and into science journalism!

Re:The bigger story (1)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915675)

Great! I bet she has the answer key.

Re:The bigger story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915991)

Don't try to cheat. You can't fool Mother Nature.

Re:The bigger story (1)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916249)

Yes, but depending on the punishment for doing so, the consequences of the act may outweigh the consequences of being caught!

Re:The bigger story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24916009)

Amazing. All of that in just 6,000 years!

em.....why....... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915463)

human thinks they r the most superior in this universal already?
not religious view......
when the mouse thinks like us do......
then they will ask "why we are to be born as the guinea pig for so-called stupid human scientific experiments?"

I'm not worried, and here's why.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915467)

We're all going to be killed in the massive strangelet chain reaction this week when they start using the LHC.

Oh No! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915503)

That's nothing. I have peons swarming my village.

Help feed a hungry test tube. (2, Funny)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915515)

"The universe of possible prions could be much larger than we thought."' Sounds like another good reason to donate your spare CPU cycles to projects like Folding@home."

Can I donate my spare prions instead?

Rednecks and their barnyard animals (-1, Troll)

ben2umbc (1090351) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915519)

Maybe jumping prions is an explanation for the moronic behavior of rednecks. It all comes from them screwing their sheep. Instead of sheep f'ing being derived from being dumb (or lonely), they are actually becoming mentally ill from the jumping prions.

I'm also sure there's a quantum leap joke in this article somewhere.

While troubling, also cool. (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915537)

While I certainly wouldn't want to get any of the prion diseases, they are all rather nasty, I find the existence of prions fascinating. They are arguably even less alive than viruses, though not by much, and yet they multiply(in a sense), and exist in all sorts of variants.

It seems like any sufficiently complex system(biological proteins in this case), is at considerable risk of having something analogous to life spring up and cause trouble.

Re:While troubling, also cool. (4, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915861)

Prions appear to exist in a space somewhere between crystals (they "multiply" in a way mot dissimilar to crystals growing and do not make anything "new" the way a virus would) and the lower end of what is considered "true" life. This suggests to me that there is a continuum and that the terms "living" and "non-living" are not descriptive of anything fundamental. If that is correct, then I suspect we will find that prions were an important stage in getting to what we call "life". However, it is not obvious as to how you'd get from a free-floating RNA/DNA strand and a prion to a living cell, so there must be other stages in between, if that indeed was the sequence. I suspect that a study of prions could yield such an additional step, but only if the researchers are willing to accept such a stage could exist.

Re:While troubling, also cool. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915911)

Prions won't ever be classified as "living" unless they can reproduce themselves. They are simply misfolded proteins that induce misfolding and aggregation of other proteins. They don't make copies of themselves.

they reproduce (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916353)

They eat normal protien. Bad protien is both offspring and a waste product.

Re:While troubling, also cool. (5, Interesting)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916229)

Have you heard of Cairn's-Smith's clay theory of abiogenesis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Cairns-Smith#Clay_theory [wikipedia.org]
In simplified form, clay theory runs as follows: Clays form naturally from silicates in solution. Clay crystals, as other crystals, preserve their external formal arrangement as they grow, snap and grow further. Masses of clay crystals of a particular external form may happen to affect their environment in ways which affect their chances of further replication â" for example, a 'stickier' clay crystal is more likely to silt a stream bed, creating an environment conducive to further sedimentation. It is conceivable that such effects could extend to the creation of flat areas likely to be exposed to air, dry and turn to wind-borne dust, which could fall at random in other streams. Thus by simple, inorganic, physical processes, a selection environment might exist for the reproduction of clay crystals of the 'stickier' shape.

There follows a process of natural selection for clay crystals which trap certain forms of molecules to their surfaces (those which enhance their replication potential). Quite complex proto-organic molecules can be catalysed by the surface properties of silicates. The final step occurs when these complex molecules perform a 'Genetic Takeover' from their clay 'vehicle', becoming an independent locus of replication - an evolutionary moment that might be understood as the first exaptation.

Richard Dawkins said of this that he doesn't believe this particular theory of abiogenesis but something like this must have happened.

He memorably said that one day a robot equivalent of Cairns Smith may note wryly that silicon based machines like him eventually took over from carbon based life like us that built them as tools in the same way that carbon based replicators took over from silicon based clay lifeforms that built them as tools.

Re:While troubling, also cool. (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916275)

However, it is not obvious as to how you'd get from a free-floating RNA/DNA strand and a prion to a living cell, so there must be other stages in between, if that indeed was the sequence.

I'm no biologist, but I imagine viruses are one of those in-between stages...

Re:While troubling, also cool. (5, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915987)

It seems like any sufficiently complex system(biological proteins in this case), is at considerable risk of having something analogous to life spring up and cause trouble.

Your name is not "Murphy" by any chance?

Re:While troubling, also cool. (1)

irtza (893217) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916097)

Well, I guess it all depends on how you define life... Most of these things are more semantic and issues because of our desire to fit things into categories. What's intersting is that prions in principle are similar to digestive enzymes in a way. Trypsin forms trypsin from trypsinogen in a self catalzying reaction. At the same time other enzymes may activate it as well. - Would you consider trypsin to be alive? The fact that prions exist as a pathology is interesting though. Furthermore, it points to the complexity of life and cells - the notion of what came first. Proteins are needed to transcribe DNA and to assist in the final layout of the newly formed protein, but the basic design of the proteins are held in that same DNA. I will be more impressed when they find proteins that can seqence proteins into self similar molecules rather than something that comes into being by cleaving a larger protein from which it is derived.

Why is this news again? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915559)

So prions can make proteins into prions in other species, e.a. cross the species barrier? Big deal. We knew this in the nineties when the whole mad-cow disease was all over the news.

I'm sure it has some scientific significance, but I think the real question is how (ingested) prions reach the central nervous system, where the damage is done. And why it takes so long or doesn't happen at all in most cases.
Now that would shed some light on the amount of risk that eating a possibli infected piece of meat would pose. That would be news.

Re:Why is this news again? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915673)

i may have read the article wrong, but i'll give this a shot.

you're right that we know that prions from cows can cause problems in humans. but i think what the article said is that it creates a new kind of prion as well. so where there used to be just one mis-folded protein messing with you, now there are two mis-folded proteins messing with you, and each is mis-folded in a different way and can do a different thing to you. so while you used to just have apples, now you have apples and oranges to deal with. two different fruits, with two different tastes. and you have to think that for every one instance where they caught this, they missed ten other instances. thinking of it that way, this could be huge.

again, i haven't read the full article, and i may have read the synopsis wrong, but that's the impression i got out of it

Re:Why is this news again? (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915933)

Not only did we know it could affect humans, but it's been apparent for a long time now that the Mad Cow Disease is a very close relative to Scrapie in sheep, and that one can transform to the other.

Which is precisely why there's a ban on using sheep remnants in cattle feed.

Folding a bit too close to home (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915621)

I guess prions take the Folding@Home idea a bit too literally.

The science of fear. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915635)

I work for one of Claudio Soto's former PhD students. From my brief skimming of this paper, it seems to be a simple proof-of-concept transmission between mice and hampsters. The discussion section, like a lot of science, is pure speculation - logical, but no need for slashdotters to scream "OMG we're all going to die!"

I'm an avid MN deer hunter (and consumer...) and I've done a significant amount of work with PrP infected mice. While not worried about going crazy and having my brain melt in 15 years, I have quit giving blood to the Red Cross. In my opinion, nobody has any "28 days" type fears to raise.

Re:The science of fear. (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916239)

Can anyone else understand what this guy is saying?

Ailment? (4, Informative)

ghoti (60903) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915691)

I'm sorry, but Creutzfeld-Jakob disease is a bit more than an "ailment." It's deadly and incurable. I think a slightly stronger word would be in order.

Folding@Home sounds like a cool project (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915711)

Just as long as it's not folding@mybrain!

Prof. X got a name for them (3, Funny)

jsse (254124) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915721)

Prof. Charles Francis Xavier:
"This process is slow, and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward."

"We called them, X-Prions"

Adds another twist (1)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915733)

to the old saying "you are what you eat"

Prion Fears Hurting Blood Supply (0)

strelitsa (724743) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915739)

The US Food and Drug Administration has banned donations of blood from people who lived in Britain during a certain time. All to prevent the spread of an ailment that so far (in my case at least) has had 30 years to manifest itself but hasn't as of yet. At this rate, I won't contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease until I turn 150.

Worrisome? (1)

Telepathetic Man (237975) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915755)

Worrisome for who? The cannibals? Stop eating brains!

Re:Worrisome? (0, Troll)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916139)

Problem is, the spinal cord (also infected) of animals is splattered all over the place if the slaughterhouse workers aren't careful.
"Stop eating dead cows" would be more appropriate. Of course, since Americans have the "beef is good for you" meme down pat (false, but ingrained by decades of advertising) that's not going to happen.

Been known for quit some time (5, Interesting)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915767)

I couple of years back, I did a lot of reading on Mad Cow. There were so many examples of it jumping the species barrier...and some of them many, many years old.

Here is an example from 18 years ago:

-=-=-=

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-111779850.html [highbeam.com]

  WASHINGTON -- Eighteen years before last week's first confirmed case of mad cow disease in the United States, investigators concluded that an epidemic of a brain-wasting disease on a Wisconsin mink farm was probably caused by a malady similar to mad cow disease.

The Wisconsin farmer had fed his mink a steady supply of "downer" cows -- too sick or injured to move on their own -- like the one that tested positive for mad cow disease in Washington state last week. On Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture banned such animals for human consumption.

Long before the USDA action, the mink industry began discouraging farmers ..

-=-=-=

It is basically that anyone who did a little study would know that it could jump the species barrier...but it just can't do that until some people in white coats tell us it can do that...then it can.

transporter_ii

Re:Been known for quit some time (4, Interesting)

tloh (451585) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916313)

mod parent up. I did some reading last year on Cronic Wasting Disease (CWD was mentioned in the article) for my infectious disease class and examples like the outbreak at the mink farm just mentioned was very prevalent in available literature. I think most people are getting the wrong idea because the article is badly written for a non-technical audience. The novelty seems *not* to be that prions can cause cross-species infections, but that it has been demonstrated in vitro (by way of "protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) protocol") in such a way that elucidated some details (multiple forms as revealed by novel strain properties) that were not apparent before. This is interesting *not* because it is a ground breaking new discovery, but because it serves as a starting point for further studying cross-species prion interaction from a different perspective using different techniques.

Re:Been known for quit some time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24916325)

> On Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture banned such animals [mad cows] for human consumption.

Wait a second... 18 years ago, the banned the consumption of cows that were affected by those prions... on Tuesday?

I know it was awhile ago so they didn't know, but doesn't the incubation period for this disease go up to 20-40 years? Doesn't that mean there could be a lot of people or animals affected by this, and we don't know until they go crazy, die and we dissect their brains to find out?

cross species? (-1, Redundant)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915791)

is a jump from hamster to mouse really a cross species jump?? their both rodents are they not?

Re:cross species? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24915915)

rodent would be the genus, hamster would be the species.

Scary (4, Interesting)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915813)

It made me wonder, if it changes when it jumps species, maybe prion diseases are something new, so I did some quick checking on Wikipedia. I didn't track down more stuff yet, but I plan on following up. I didn't realize this, but it appears that a lot of prion diseases are fairly recent developments. Scrapie showed up in 1732, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in the 1800s, CJD showed up around 1920, Kuru in 1957, Chronic Wasting Disease in 1967, Feline Spongiform Enecephalopathy 1990.

And these are more than half of the diseases caused by prions, I believe. That's more than a bit disconcerting.

Re:Scary (5, Insightful)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916177)

I didn't realize this, but it appears that a lot of prion diseases are fairly recent developments.

People didn't eat as much meat as they do today, didn't live as long, and they certainly didn't feed their livestock with slaughterhouse waste. The latter is what got prions into the food chain in significant amounts.

Re:Scary (2, Insightful)

registrar (1220876) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916361)

Smallpox had been around for thousands of years, but it was only in the last few centuries that people identified it as being distinct from chickenpox, measles and other poxes. It doesn't prove that there's been a proliferation of poxes, just a lot more classifying going on.

That said, our changing living patterns do expose us to new diseases (see sibling post) like BSE, SARS and HIV---all depending on who you mean by "us". There's truth in what you observe, but it's not a huge deal because that same change in living patterns means that we know what caused it and what to do about it. Life expectancy has gone up dramatically despite the introduction of new diseases.

Mark Purdey's alternative hypothesis (5, Interesting)

nido (102070) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915817)

... Mark Purdey [markpurdey.com] was, of course, the British beef farmer who had a different theory about Mad Cow. In the 80's the British government required all cattle to be dosed with an Organo-phostate pesticide, to combat a warble fly epidemic (these bugs punch holes in cattle skin, making the hides less suitable for leather seats).

Purdey was an organic farmer, and sued to protect his right to keep synthetic pesticides away from his herd. He won. A few years later Chernobyl went off, and some time after that the first Mad Cow epidemic occured. Purdey's cows were mostly immune. He had a few mad cows, but these were mostly transplants to his herd which had, presumably, been dosed with the pestacide.

As the years went by, Purdey turned into a scientist himself, doing the research that the british government wouldn't do because of their potential liability in having caused the mad-cow epidemic (by require farmers to poison their herds).

Basically, the pesticide used chellated (removed) copper from the treated body. Somehow manganese substitutes for copper, but it isn't a good subsitute. The radioactive fallout from Chernobyl didn't help things either. It's been years since I first read Purdey's site, so I don't remember the details.

He commented that the Mad Cow in Washington (the northwest state) came from a copper-deficient pasture in Canada, into an area where quite a bit of nuclear weapons research had been done in decades past. The mad deer in Colorado also occupy a site with extensive radiologic environmental poisoning.

So basically, Purdey's theory is that prions are an effect of environmental poisoning, not the cause of Mad-Cow-esque disease.

Purdey is deceased now (brain cancer?), but his site's still live. Definitely recommended reading.

Re:Mark Purdey's alternative hypothesis (3, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915917)

sounds like nonsense to me, just a crack pot theory piecing bits together combined with 1/2 truths.

Re:Mark Purdey's alternative hypothesis (4, Interesting)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915967)

Yes, but now I'm wondering... DNA can be damaged/mutated by environmental factors; proteins can be damaged by chemicals (when I was in college, we used the crude method of boiling proteins in a saturated lye solution to break them down into their various amino acids); why should prions be immune?

Which says nothing pro or con re this Purdey fellow's theory of the origin of BSE; he could be dead-wrong on that, yet correct as applied elsewhere. Or he may be completely off-base in every way, yet we should still look at *what* causes prions to "fold wrong"; who knows what we'll learn?

Re:Mark Purdey's alternative hypothesis (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916109)

I agree that we should look into why prions fold wrong, but I'm sure the folks are doing that (aren't you?!). But "environmental factor", is that what life is? What does it mean specifically?

Re:Mark Purdey's alternative hypothesis (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916185)

Could mean anything. Whatever chemical or energy forces affect the proteins. Yeah, I agree that's ridiculously nonspecific :) but some are already known, so make a reasonable starting point.

Re:Mark Purdey's alternative hypothesis (1)

devotedlhasa (1298843) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915921)

Purdey is deceased now (brain cancer?)

It was prions.

Re:Mark Purdey's alternative hypothesis (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916091)

So... (soil?) copper deficiency is somehow the same as effect of nuke testing and they are all "environmental poisoning".

Do stop. This is why some relious people are accusing the science of same bullshit.

Re:Mark Purdey's alternative hypothesis (3, Interesting)

tfoss (203340) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916147)

Purdey's theory is that prions are an effect of environmental poisoning, not the cause of Mad-Cow-esque disease.

First off, those two statements are unrelated. Prions can cause TSEs regardless of if copper or manganese from the environment causes them. Secondly, it is pretty well accepted by the scientific community that prions are the cause of TSEs. You can infect animals with PrP-Sc (the misfolded form of the prion protein (PrP-C being the normally folded version) and cause TSE. If you knock out the PrP protein, mice are not susceptible to PrP-Sc.

What causes the first misfolding of PrP-C to PrP-Sc is unknown (unfortunately), and it is clear that PrP-C has copper-binding repeats, so an effect of Cu on the protein is a very likely possibility.

-Ted

Re:Mark Purdey's alternative hypothesis (0)

afaik_ianal (918433) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916253)

Alternatively, consider the following:

Agent Orange was heavily used in Vietnam. Some time later, a plane blew up over Lockerby in the UK. Now Vietnam is free from mad cow disease, while there have been many cases of BSE in the UK.

Clearly, it follows that the Libyans are to blame for BSE, and Agent Orange is a suitable preventative treatment, right? Or have I just listed a bunch of completely unrelated things.

Now reread what Mark Purdy says, and see if you can find a single scrap of evidence supporting a causal relationship between any of the points. You've even pointed out evidence *against* it (that he had infected cows), yet he glossed over that by adding another unrelated complication into the hypothesis.

There are literally millions of things that one can claim could have led to BSE, but without any supporting evidence, none of them are any more credible than another.

Is that surprising ? (2, Interesting)

aepervius (535155) | more than 5 years ago | (#24915939)

Many of the proteins of the mammals are qu7ite in common except sometimes for a few details. If those few details make no difference to the attack site of the prion, it ain't that surprising that other similar brain protein can similarly badly in other mammals. Sooooo we should simply ban utterly to feed other dead mammals protein to other specy which are for human consumption (cue the sales of meat carcass into pet food....).

Obvious solution (1)

zymurgy_cat (627260) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916001)

Just build a giant wall between our species and the rest. Use lots of high tech things like cameras, UAVs, and the like. That'll work.

Folding@Home alternative (2, Interesting)

vrjim (1287740) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916103)

Become a vegetarian and loose the risk of contracting a scary prion disease from your food. Prion diseases are awful- I'd take an STD or physical handicap any day over one of those. Now I understand that the USA only randomly checks 1% of cattle for mad cow disease. Since we HAVE had cattle found with it before that stands to reason that cattle with prion diseases have made it into the food supply. The scariest part is these prion diseases can have incubation periods in both cattle and humans for many years. If a cow does not show symptoms it is not likely to be checked for the disease even if it carries it. A tainted burger your parents bought you from McDonald's (containing meat from who knows how many different cows) when you were 10 might not show symptoms till you're 40+ and at that point how could anyone ever trace it to any particular time/place/meal? No- I'm not a vegetarian, but I am seriously considering dropping all animals from my diet except birds and fish.

Folding for Someone Else's Pocket (4, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916123)

Sounds like another good reason to donate your spare CPU cycles to projects like Folding@home."

So the public is donating a lot of computing time and electrical energy. What does the public get back?

If Folding@Home goes towards lining the pockets of a university endowment or a drug company's coffers, count me out. If the research product is required to be free from patents, and available for public good...full speed ahead. Somehow, I seriously doubt that any successful results will be freely available.

idle cpu? (3, Insightful)

stm2 (141831) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916167)

There is not such a thing as "spare CPU cycles" since when you run a *@home program, CPU power consumption pikes.
In a laptop, when running any CPU intensive distributed program, battery level is stuck since all the power goes to the CPU instead of charging the battery.

Re:idle cpu? (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916295)

I dunno what laptop you have, but the manufacturer did not include a large enough power brick. Every laptop I have seen or owned will charge even when being run at full tilt.

Am I the only one (1)

dmsuperman (1033704) | more than 5 years ago | (#24916183)

Am I the only one who read that as "prisons" and immediately wondered why we started locking up animals?
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