Health Discoveries in Neurodegenerative

Rapid test developed to detect deadly prion diseases

January 5, 2011

Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have developed a rapid test to detect infectious agents called prions that lead to diseases such as mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans.

Current diagnostic tests for these illnesses aren't fast or sensitive enough to detect the infections. But the new test developed at NIAID's Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana may be able to speed detection and treatment of diseases in medicine, wildlife biology and agriculture.

The real time quaking induced conversion assay, or RT-QuIC, also may have later applications in similar neurodegenerative protein diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases, said lead researcher Byron Caughey.

Prion diseases cause brain damage that leaves dead tissue with sponge-like holes in the brain. "Scientists have promising concepts for developing therapies for people infected with prion diseases, but treatments are helpful only if it is known who needs them. This detection model could eventually bridge that gap," said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of NIAID.

Within the North Shore-LIJ Health System, the Center for Neurosciences has a leading brain imaging program recognized for its techniques in characterizing and quantifying neural circuits in neurodegenerative disorders.

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