New findings about the causes of Mad Cow Disease show that sometimes it may be genetic?for cows, anyway.

Researcher Juergen A. Richt says, “We now know it’s also in the genes of cattle.” Until several years ago, it was thought that the cattle prion disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy?also called BSE or mad cow disease?was a foodborne disease. But his team’s new findings suggest that mad cow disease also is caused by a genetic mutation within a gene called Prion Protein Gene.

The research shows, for the first time, that a 10-year-old cow from Alabama with an atypical form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy had the same type of prion protein gene mutation as found in human patients with the genetic form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, also called genetic CJD for short.

Prion diseases, including mad cow disease, are referred to as “slow diseases,” Richt says, because “it’s a slow process for infectious prion proteins to develop. That’s why the disease takes a long time?as long as several years?to show up.” This may be why Mad Cow wasn’t noticed until modern times, when people started living longer.

We have to learn how to learn how to IDENTIFY cows that are infected, BEFORE we turn them into steaks and hamburger. Even better: we need to make sure that cattle with the genetic version of this disease are not bred. Richt says, “Genetic BSE we can combat. We have submitted a patent for a test system that can assess all bulls and cows before they’re bred to see whether they have this mutation.”

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In order to understand what’s REALLY going on, we need to consult the past?but this only works if we have the right interpreter!

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