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Prions Observed Jumping Species Barrier 214

Posted by timothy
from the only-applies-if-you-have-brain-tissue dept.
palegray.net writes "Nature is reporting on new findings that prions jump species barriers. Believed to be responsible for ailments such as Creutzfeld-Jakob disease and 'mad cow' disease, prions are thought to disrupt biological processes by causing normal proteins to fold abnormally. Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston have observed infectious prions from hamsters causing abnormal protein development in mice, along with a range of other observations on prion actions in test tube environments. From the article: '... they also found that when a prion jumps species, it produces a new kind of prion. "This is very worrisome," says Claudio Soto, who led the research, published in Cell. "The universe of possible prions could be much larger than we thought."' Sounds like another good reason to donate your spare CPU cycles to projects like Folding@home."
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Prions Observed Jumping Species Barrier

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  • Re:Folding@Home (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ozphx (1061292) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @09:51PM (#24915447) Homepage

    Instead of donating energy to run Folding on your inefficient PC, where the results have to be triple-checked - consider just donating money directly to the project instead of via your power bill.

    Runtime on a trusted supercomputer / local cluster is going to be an order of magnitude more efficient in terms of data crunched per watt-hour.

  • Re:Folding@Home (Score:2, Insightful)

    by narcberry (1328009) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @09:52PM (#24915455) Journal

    It's like every /. article is an opportunity to espouse the same posts in a previous article. Let me save all the future posters their breathe...

    Dirty energy is bad.
    Global Warming.
    Creationists are dumb.
    DMCA is stoopid.
    OMG zero day is here!

    There, someone e-mail me when there's a comment worth reading.

  • Re:Folding@Home (Score:5, Insightful)

    by g0dsp33d (849253) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @09:56PM (#24915481)
    Or do both. I think they'll be glad for any CPU and especially any GPU cycles.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @10:06PM (#24915537) Journal
    While I certainly wouldn't want to get any of the prion diseases, they are all rather nasty, I find the existence of prions fascinating. They are arguably even less alive than viruses, though not by much, and yet they multiply(in a sense), and exist in all sorts of variants.

    It seems like any sufficiently complex system(biological proteins in this case), is at considerable risk of having something analogous to life spring up and cause trouble.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 07, 2008 @10:09PM (#24915559)

    So prions can make proteins into prions in other species, e.a. cross the species barrier? Big deal. We knew this in the nineties when the whole mad-cow disease was all over the news.

    I'm sure it has some scientific significance, but I think the real question is how (ingested) prions reach the central nervous system, where the damage is done. And why it takes so long or doesn't happen at all in most cases.
    Now that would shed some light on the amount of risk that eating a possibli infected piece of meat would pose. That would be news.

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @11:15PM (#24915917)
    sounds like nonsense to me, just a crack pot theory piecing bits together combined with 1/2 truths.
  • Re:Rudimentary (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 07, 2008 @11:50PM (#24916105)

    Because not all proteins are broken down into amino acids during digestion like hair for example.

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Sunday September 07, 2008 @11:52PM (#24916123)

    Sounds like another good reason to donate your spare CPU cycles to projects like Folding@home."

    So the public is donating a lot of computing time and electrical energy. What does the public get back?

    If Folding@Home goes towards lining the pockets of a university endowment or a drug company's coffers, count me out. If the research product is required to be free from patents, and available for public good...full speed ahead. Somehow, I seriously doubt that any successful results will be freely available.

  • idle cpu? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stm2 (141831) <sbassi&genesdigitales,com> on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:04AM (#24916167) Homepage Journal

    There is not such a thing as "spare CPU cycles" since when you run a *@home program, CPU power consumption pikes.
    In a laptop, when running any CPU intensive distributed program, battery level is stuck since all the power goes to the CPU instead of charging the battery.

  • Re:Scary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rrohbeck (944847) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:05AM (#24916177)

    I didn't realize this, but it appears that a lot of prion diseases are fairly recent developments.

    People didn't eat as much meat as they do today, didn't live as long, and they certainly didn't feed their livestock with slaughterhouse waste. The latter is what got prions into the food chain in significant amounts.

  • Re:Scary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by registrar (1220876) on Monday September 08, 2008 @12:46AM (#24916361)

    Smallpox had been around for thousands of years, but it was only in the last few centuries that people identified it as being distinct from chickenpox, measles and other poxes. It doesn't prove that there's been a proliferation of poxes, just a lot more classifying going on.

    That said, our changing living patterns do expose us to new diseases (see sibling post) like BSE, SARS and HIV---all depending on who you mean by "us". There's truth in what you observe, but it's not a huge deal because that same change in living patterns means that we know what caused it and what to do about it. Life expectancy has gone up dramatically despite the introduction of new diseases.

  • by lgw (121541) on Monday September 08, 2008 @02:24AM (#24916743) Journal

    That's the best description I've heard so far. Bad prions are a particulary nasty biological toxin because they can survive conditions that destroy other biological toxins. They can apparantly pass through digestion repeatedly, aren't destroyed by an ordinary autoclave, and survive for a long time exposed to sun and oxygen. It's apparantly hard to sterilize medical equipment in such a way that prions are destroyed.

    The good news is that prion-based diseases are vanishingly rare. Avoid cannibalism and you're safe: so far meteor strikes are about as dangerous a threat, along with heart-attack induced by the stress of winning the lottery.

  • Re:Rudimentary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by magsk (1316183) on Monday September 08, 2008 @03:29AM (#24916977)
    Though you are correct that cross feeding of downers has been illegal for years now... I worry that the large spike in feed prices (corn) will cause some struggling farmers to do things that they wouldnt normally do when feed prices had been lower....like feeding the chickens the downed cow from his neighbor.
  • by julesh (229690) on Monday September 08, 2008 @04:54AM (#24917231)

    The good news is that prion-based diseases are vanishingly rare. Avoid cannibalism and you're safe: so far meteor strikes are about as dangerous a threat, along with heart-attack induced by the stress of winning the lottery.

    Don't overestimate the threat of meteor strikes. While there have been a lot of near misses and property damage, there are apparently no recorded instances of somebody being killed by a meteorite since 1929.

    Just so you know.

  • by julesh (229690) on Monday September 08, 2008 @04:57AM (#24917243)

    Uhuh. The summary is just wrong, is what's going on here. If you read the article, what it's actually about is a new way to study prions in vitro and test them to determine whether there's a possibility of them crossing a particular species barrier.

    Which is, when you think about it, a very useful test to have available.

  • Re:Folding@Home (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jank1887 (815982) on Monday September 08, 2008 @09:10AM (#24918645)
    oh, you're paying for it all right. we all are.

Byte your tongue.

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