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Can We TURN OFF Mad Cow?

A new treatment may be able to REVERSE Mad Cow Disease in humans. It works in mice.

Blocking the production of certain proteins in the brains of diseased mice completely reverses the memory loss caused by Mad Cow. Will it do the same thing for humans? The human form of Mad Cow is called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

Animals and humans both produce normal prion proteins in our nervous systems. Mad Cow and vCJD produce abnormal, "folded" prions that disrupt the functioning of our normal prions. The resulting brain damage leads to loss of coordination, dementia and eventually to death.

UK researcher Giovanna studied mice that were genetically engineered to stop producing normal prions at around 10 weeks old, which is the same as age 25 in humans. When these mice were injected with folded Mad Cow prions, their memories were NOT affected. This may eventually lead to a cure for vCJD, in which scientists learn how to create a drug that can block our production of prions. But can we survive without them?

In New Scientist, Roxanne Khamsi quotes researcher Giovanna Mallucci as saying, "You can rescue brain function in mice [with the new approach] but it's a long way away from being a treatment that works in people."

vCJD symptoms are similar to those caused by Alzheimer's, and some scientists think they are actually the same disease. On Dreamland about a year ago, Anne Strieber interviewed researcher Colm Kelleher about this subject. This means that whether or not you get Alzheimer's disease could depend on what you eat.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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