Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 41: Sep-Oct 1985

Issue Contents

Other pages











Scrapie Transmitted By Prions

Scrapie is an infectious neurological disorder in sheep. The infectious agent has been isolated, but it consists only of geneless prions. Somehow, these prions, which are merely protein filaments, get into a sheep's brain and replicate themselves to cause scrapie. With no genetic material of their own, how do the prions multiply? Recent laboratory work suggests that the prions subvert a gene that normally dwells in the brain. With the help of this gene, an endless stream of prions emerges, and the animal is sick. In hamsters, which are employed in laboratory research on scrapie, a gene demarcated PrP has been implicated in scrapie. PrP is present in both healthy and infected hamster brains, but no one knows what its normal function is, if indeed it has one.

(Anonymous; "Prion Gene," Scientific American, 253:60, July 1985.)

Comment. One can make an immediate connection between the traitorous PrP genes in the hamster brains and the excess genetic material in humans and all life forms. Biologists commonly call excess genetic material "nonsense DNA" which only means that they haven't devined its purpose. But, as already sugested, these unused blueprints may have had some past purpose or will be called into action in the future. The purpose may be insidious, as in the case of scrapie, or vital to the organism's survival in some unrecognized biological Armageddons.

From Science Frontiers #41, SEP-OCT 1985. � 1985-2000 William R. Corliss