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News

Blocking nerve cells delays onset of prion disease

Society For General Microbiology : 10 January, 2002  (Company News)
A chemical that specifically blocks parts of the nervous system can delay the onset of scrapie and could lead to new drugs to prevent vCJD and BSE, medical experts heard during a joint meeting of the European Societies of Clinical and Veterinary Virology and the Society for General Microbiology at the Royal College of Physicians, London. Blocking nerve cells delays onset of prion disease.
A chemical that specifically blocks parts of the nervous system can delay the onset of scrapie and could lead to new drugs to prevent vCJD and BSE, medical experts heard during a joint meeting of the European Societies of Clinical and Veterinary Virology and the Society for General Microbiology at the Royal College of Physicians, London. Blocking nerve cells delays onset of prion disease.

'By paralysing parts of the sympathetic nervous system in lymphoid organs we can dramatically slow down the onset of scrapie by inhibiting neuroinvasion of prions,' says Dr Markus Glatzel of the Institute of Neuropathology, University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland.

The peripheral nervous system, which includes the SNS, has been implicated in the transport and replication of prions. Depending on the route of peripheral prion uptake neuroinvasion occurs in nerve fibres belonging to the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system.

The SNS is responsible for the 'fight or flight' mechanism, which results in sweating and raised heart rate and blood sugar levels. Animals that have had the SNS completely removed can live a normal life, provided they are kept warm and are not stressed.

Dr Glatzel explains, 'We are not proposing to completely wipe out the SNS in order to prevent prion disease. But as peripheral nerves represent a bottleneck in prion neuroinvasion it is conceivable that even a slight alteration of the SNS may have an impact on prion neuroinvasion. For example by using a small, non-toxic, dose of a drug such as 6-hydroxydopamine or by suppressing the SNS immunolgically.'
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