Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have developed a method that may finally speed up detection of prions, and help with making diagnoses earlier with a more sensitive test.
From abstract at PLoS Pathogens:
Here we describe an approach for estimating the relative amount of prions using a new prion seeding assay called real-time quaking induced conversion assay (RT-QuIC). The underlying reaction blends aspects of the previously described quaking-induced conversion (QuIC) and amyloid seeding assay (ASA) methods and involves prion-seeded conversion of the alpha helix-rich form of bacterially expressed recombinant PrPC to a beta sheet-rich amyloid fibrillar form. The RT-QuIC is as sensitive as the animal bioassay, but can be accomplished in 2 days or less. Analogous to end-point dilution animal bioassays, this approach involves testing of serial dilutions of samples and statistically estimating the seeding dose (SD) giving positive responses in 50% of replicate reactions (SD50). Brain tissue from 263K scrapie-affected hamsters gave SD50 values of 1011-1012/g, making the RT-QuIC similar in sensitivity to end-point dilution bioassays. Analysis of bioassay-positive nasal lavages from hamsters affected with transmissible mink encephalopathy gave SD50 values of 103.5-105.7/ml, showing that nasal cavities release substantial prion infectivity that can be rapidly detected. Cerebral spinal fluid from 263K scrapie-affected hamsters contained prion SD50 values of 102.0-102.9/ml. RT-QuIC assay also discriminated deer chronic wasting disease and sheep scrapie brain samples from normal control samples. In principle, end-point dilution quantitation can be applied to many types of prion and amyloid seeding assays. End point dilution RT-QuIC provides a sensitive, rapid, quantitative, and high throughput assay of prion seeding activity.
Full paper at PLoS Pathogens: Rapid End-Point Quantitation of Prion Seeding Activity with Sensitivity Comparable to Bioassays
Press release: NIH study suggests that early detection is possible for prion diseases…
Image: Colour-enhanced image of prion proteins (PrPSc) from an animal infected with scrapie. Credit: Wellcome Images