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Video: Scientists Observe Infectious Prion Proteins Invade and Move Within Brain Cells

View video of prion trafficking in nerve cells

Uptake and transport of infectious prion protein by cultured nerve cells. A large aggregate of fluorescently tagged scrapie prion protein is shown on the surface of a nerve-like cell. In time, small particles are broken off, internalized, and transported within the cell body and along a neurite to the tip. Neurites (such as axons and dendrites) are wire-like connections the nerve cells use for communicating with adjacent cells. These events appear to represent how the infectious agents (or prions) of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) invade nerve cells and are transported along neural circuits throughout the nervous system. TSEs are infectious, fatal neurodegenerative diseases such as scrapie of sheep, BSE (mad cow disease), chronic wasting disease of deer and elk, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) of humans. 

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Last Updated May 23, 2005