What Are Prions?
Prions are distorted versions of normal proteins found in human and animal brain and other tissues. These distorted (‘misfolded’) proteins damage brain cells, leading to fatal dementias akin to human Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. One of the amazing things about prions is that, although they are composed only of proteins and contain no genes, they have acquired the ability to be transmitted like other infectious agents such as viruses or bacteria. Best known prion diseases are mad cow disease of cattle and humans, Creutzfeld-Jakob disease of humans, chronic wasting disease of deer and elk, and scrapie of sheep. Better understanding of prions is important in controlling the threat they represent to animals and humans and for what we can learn about the cause and treatment of the major dementia diseases of humans