Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 9th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Spyin' on Prions
17 July 2016

Spyin' on Prions

This unsuspecting nerve cell has no idea it’s a key target for prions – abnormally-shaped molecules that cause serious brain-damaging diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cows, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and Kuru in humans. Right now there is no cure for any prion-induced conditions. Some of the earliest changes in prion-infected cells happen in the connections between brain cells at structures called dendritic spines, highlighted here in green, within a matter of hours of infection. By developing a way of growing susceptible nerve cells (known as hippocampal neurons) in plastic dishes in the lab and studying the minute changes that occur as the prions take hold, researchers can now start to figure out exactly what’s going on. It also enables them to search for drugs that can halt the damage caused by prions, potentially paving the way for vital new treatments for these devastating diseases.

Written by Kat Arney

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.