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Science. 2006 Jul 7;313(5783):92-4.

Presymptomatic detection of prions in blood.

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George and Cynthia Mitchell Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research, Department of Neurology, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-0646, USA.


Prions are thought to be the proteinaceous infectious agents responsible for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). PrP(Sc), the main component of the infectious agent, is also the only validated surrogate marker for the disease, and its sensitive detection is critical for minimizing the spread of the disease. We detected PrP(Sc) biochemically in the blood of hamsters infected with scrapie during most of the presymptomatic phase of the disease. At early stages of the incubation period, PrP(Sc) detected in blood was likely to be from the peripheral replication of prions, whereas at the symptomatic phase, PrP(Sc) in blood was more likely to have leaked from the brain. The ability to detect prions biochemically in the blood of infected but not clinically sick animals offers a great promise for the noninvasive early diagnosis of TSEs.

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