Lab Research

Our laboratory continues to do fundamental research on infectious dementias and the causes of neurodegenerative disease. The transmission of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) to normal mice as well as to neuronal cultures here (PMID: 19097123) prove that the vCJD infectious agent is derived from epidemic “mad cow disease” (BSE) in the UK. This virus-like agent is a unique strain belonging to the group that causes Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). These agents affect many mammalian species. Our transmission of kuru, a human TSE in New Guinea, to mice and to monotypic cultures (PMID: 19633190), clearly shows this unique kuru agent is also geographically restricted. In addition, there are vast differences in the incubation time and regional brain lesions that distinguish the many different geographic human CJD and sheep TSE scrapie isolates (dramatic brain differences in CJD strains isolated from the USA and Japan can be seen on Dr. Manuelidis's lab website.

Our results emphasize an environmental origin of TSE infectious agents. Indeed, it is likely that environmental causes, infectious and otherwise, underlie more common dementias such as Alzheimer’s Disease. This line of approach deserves investigation, especially in view of major public health issues.

Our stable tissue culture models of many different TSE strains, as well as the ability to rapidly assay infectivity in culture (PMID: 18989813; PMID: 18788938), offer exciting new avenues for direct molecular analysis of infectious TSE particles and rational approaches to prevent and cure these infections. Below we point out some of the reasons why we think it likely that the infectious agent is a virus rather than a misfolded host protein.

The backwards evolution of the prion concept

Sometimes speculations leap so far ahead of evidence that they develop a detached life of their own.  Next Page...