Research highlight

Ultrasensitive detection of prions

Nature Medicine

January 31, 2011

An ultrasensitive method to detect human prions — the agent that causes Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) — is reported in an article published online this week in Nature Medicine.

The development of technologies for the in vitro amplification of the pathogenic conformation of the prion protein — PrPSc — has generated the potential for new diagnostic assay for CJD. Ryuichiro Atarashi and his colleagues developed a PrPSc detection assay, called real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QUIC), which allows the fast detection of as little as one femtogram — 10-15 grams — of PrPSc in extracts from brains of people with CJD.

Crucially, the technique allowed the authors to detect prions with high sensitivity and specificity in cerebrospinal fluid samples from patients, highlighting the potential of RT-QUIC for the early detection of suspected CJD cases.

doi: 10.1038/nm.2294

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