thomst writes "Nature Neuroscience just published an online article about the function of 'normal' prions in protecting myelin, the substance that sheathes and protects sensory and motor nerves. The international study (which has 11 authors) concluded that 'normal' (i.e., not mis-folded) prions may form a protective coat around myelin. The researchers found that Prnp -/- mice (mice with the gene for prions knocked out) consistently developed progressive demyelination, inevitably leading to persistent polyneuropathy by 60 weeks of age. Their data suggest that damage to myelin sheaths cause normal prions to cleave, and the resulting prion fragments activate Schwann cells, which are known to play a part in myelin repair. This research might eventually lead to possible treatments for progressive polyneuropathies in humans, including those mediated by Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, and even diabetes."
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