USU Playing Major Role in Mad Cow Research

USU Playing Major Role in Mad Cow Research

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Ed Yeates reportingThe discovery of Mad Cow disease in the United States could accelerate the work of researchers trying to find a way to stop the disease in humans.

Utah State University in Logan is playing a major role in that search.

In highly restricted labs at Utah State University, scientists are actually infecting mice with a rodent variation of a brain wasting disease similar to Mad Cow - to see how they respond to new therapies.

They begin in one room with uninfected mice. Then next door in a adjoining lab, they're infected with what are called prions - the villain behind the brain wasting diseases.

Because the mice are specially bred, they develop symptoms within about eighty days. Researchers then treat the animals with compounds, carefully prepared by pharmaceutical companies, to see if any block the disease.

Dr. John Morrey / USU Institute For Antiviral Research: "They're looking for something that will actually not only stop the progression of the disease - but ultimately reverse it to some extent."

Prions are neither a virus or a bacteria, but a protein which when introduced in the brain begins breaking down the molecular structure of tissue.

While USU is doing their thing in Logan - scientists in Colorado announced this week they've developed a screening test which can detect Mad Cow Disease in a living animal - perhaps early enough before it infects others.

That means inspectors could screen and quarantine without having to sacrifice or kill the animal.

Will researchers feel more pressure now that the disease has shown up in the U-S? Most certainly - and that might mean increased funding from groups like the National Institutes of Health.

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