<figcaption> Credit: © Russell Kightley / rkm.com.au</figcaption>
Credit: © Russell Kightley / rkm.com.au

The paper:

Deleault et al., "Formation of native prions from minimal components in vitro," Proc Natl Acad Sci, 104: 9741-6, 2007. (Cited in 53 papers)

The finding:

To test whether misfolded, disease-causing prion proteins could form from their normal counterparts without being seeded with the infectious form, biochemist Surachai Supattapone and his colleagues at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, NH, mixed a cocktail of purified, uninfectious prions, a synthetic, highly charged RNA, and some lipids. After stirring the concoction with sound waves, the normal proteins morphed into their lethal cousins and triggered scrapie—a fatal prion disease—when injected into hamsters.

The impact:

The study was the first showing that fully infectious proteins can be created from scratch, "even without adding any infectious material in the reaction," says Ilia Baskakov, a biochemist at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute in Baltimore. "It's one of...

CocktailHamsters with scrapieMean time until symptoms
Normal protein alone (PrPC)0/5>370 days
RNA + PrPC without amplification0/6>360 days
RNA + PrPC with amplification7/8134 days

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