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November 20th, 2007
Prion fingerprints detected with glowing molecule
An effective and sensitive new method for detecting and characterizing prions, the infectious compounds behind diseases like mad cow disease, is now being launched by researchers at Linköping University in Sweden, among other institutions.
Mad cow disease (BSE), which has caused the death of more than 200,000 cattle and 165 people in the U.K., has now abated. But other prion disorders are on the rise, and there is concern that new strains will infect humans. Prions are not readily transmittable from species to species, but once they have broken through the species barrier they can rapidly adapt and become contagious within the species. Intensive work is now underway to find new, more sensitive methods for detecting these potentially deadly protein structures and distinguish between various strains.
The method now being presented in the journal Nature Methods is based on a fluorescent molecule, a so-called conjugated polymer, which was developed at Linköping University.
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