Prions are infectious proteins. They are even smaller and simpler than viruses. Simpler, however, does not mean that we know how to deal with them. Prionic diseases (mad cow disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, and all other in the same class) have no cure. Pall Corporation, the manufacturer of medical filtration systems, reports about its innovative IV filter, designed to reduce the prion exposure:
Assessing the risk of potential exposure to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), the human form of ‘mad cow disease,’ from blood transfusion was the focus of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) Advisory Committee in Silver Spring, Maryland today. In response to the Committee’s encouragement that new technologies should be considered that might lead to greater reduction of risk while not deferring many donors unnecessarily, Pall Corporation (NYSE: PLL) presented the latest scientific data on its new prion reduction technology. The Leukotrap® Affinity Prion Reduction Filter, expected to be launched commercially in Europe this spring, removes infectious prions from red cells, the most widely transfused blood component. Prions are associated with causing vCJD and other fatal neurodegenerative diseases, known as TSEs.
In medical school, vCJD was my “favorite” disease. I was infatuated with it: prions are newly discovered and still very mysterious. Prions tend to congregate in the neural tissues (brain, spinal cord, cerebrospinal fluid, eyes). But it has also been demonstrated that the agent that causes the human form of Mad Cow disease can be transmitted through blood transfusion. Hence is the filter.
Nobel Foundation has a lecture (.pdf) by Stanley Prusiner, M.D. about prions.
More at Pall…