Mad Cow Disease: scientists believe they’ve discovered the cause

In a study published in PNAS, a team of researchers investigated the causes of mad cow disease, a neurodegenerative bovine disease that first appeared in the UK in the 1980s and then became relatively widespread in the 1990s.

It is a disease that belongs to a group of diseases linked to so-called prions, proteins that can be considered as “non-conventional infectious agents” of a protein nature (they are neither microorganisms nor viruses). This group also includes, for example, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which affects humans, and scrapie, a spongiform encephalopathy that usually affects goats and sheep.

To carry out the research, researchers injected mice with a particular variant of scrapie and with genetic manipulation actions showed that mutated mice developed mad cow disease.
The genetically modified mice themselves are considered by the researchers to be an excellent model for understanding what happens to prions in cows, as explained by Olivier Andreoletti, a researcher at the French National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA).


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