News 166 views last update:6 Aug 2012

Modified plants may provide BSE antibodies

Dr. Nat Kav from the University of Alberta, Canada is studying how modified plants - containing antibodies - can protect cattle from developing BSE.

Cattle's immune systems do not detect the abnormal protein that causes the disease, so the animals do not produce antibodies to attack the folded protein that eats holes in the brain.

World renowned Swiss scientist Adriano Aguzzi managed to create antibodies to BSE using mice, and Kav and James obtained some of these for this project, Kav explained. Kav is working on transferring them into plants, while James is looking at the structure of the antibodies to see how they prevent the prion from suddenly becoming misshapen.

"Growing the antibodies in plants is not a problem," says Kav. That kind of transgenic plant (transplanting genetic material from one organism to another) is not difficult. "The question is whether the antibodies will prevent the protein from shifting shape."

In the long run, if the antibody is successful in fighting the rogue prion, the same process could be used to fight Alzheimer's, a related human brain disease, says Kav. "Though I'm dreaming a bit here," he adds.

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[Source: The Edmonton Journal]

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