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Antibodies could combat prion-based diseases

The discovery that antibodies seem to be effective against prions could open the door to immunisation against spongiform encephalopathies.

Simon Frantz(simonfrantz@hotmail.com)

LONDON A team from Imperial College School of Medicine are hopeful that they have discovered a way to prevent and destroy prion-based infections, such as scrapie, BSE and vCJD. A study, published in July 31 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that treating cell cultures susceptible to mouse scrapie with an anti-prion antibody not only prevented infection of these cells but also cured chronically infected cultures (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2001 198:9295-9299).

Enari et al. suggested that their findings support the idea that immunisation could provide a feasible therapy for prion-based diseases; although they admit there still is a long way to go before this could become a clinical reality. "These are tissue culture cells, so we still have to find whether the same thing happens in animals, let alone in people," Charles Weissmann, who led the research at the Medical Research Council's...

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