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The following websites provide a quick review of prion research in the news. Prions, short for "proteinaceous infectious particles," are responsible for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), mad cow disease, scrapie disease, chronic wasting disease, and other deadly brain diseases. The first website, a Science Update from the journal _Nature_, reports on an intriguing study published earlier this year that found genes in some human populations offer protection from prion diseases, possibly in response to a history of cannibalism (1). This article also provides a good overview of what prions are and how they function. The next article, also from _Nature_, describes how "researchers in Switzerland claim to have proved a long-standing theory about prions: that the proteins couple up to breed mad cow disease" (2). The next three sites contain articles from BBC News: The first is a recent story relating new findings that CJD prions exist in very low levels in muscle tissue, not just in the brain, posing a theoretical (if remote) risk of transmitting the disease during surgery (3). The next article describes recent findings that suggest it's not prions themselves that cause disease, but rather "something to do with the conversion process between a normal prion and an abnormal prion" (4). A slightly earlier study provides other insights into prion pathology (5). The next two sites, excellent features from the Whyfiles, offer an in-depth look at both the science and politics of mad cow disease (6 ) and chronic wasting disease (7).
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