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In a strange development in the war against misfolding proteins, a cannibal tribe in Papua New Guinea is seemingly immune to Kuru, a rare prion form of dementia. Prion disease usually begins with injestion of an abnormally folded form of a particular protein which then initiates a devastating chain of misfolding in the host and leads to fatal degeneration.
A paper in Nature found that the ‘Fore’ tribe are an example Darwinian evolution, harboring a key mutation that changed one amino acid, Glycine to Valine, in the natural protein rendering it immune to the prion form’s influence. How does this help against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s you might ask?
Well neither of the above are prion conditions and the associated protein aggregates may be symptoms rather than cause, but the demonstration that one amino acid change gives this tribe complete resistance to one type of misfolding is important in itself. The misfolding mechanisms may be similar enough that this leads onto further research and greater understanding of misfolding mechanisms – or more importantly help in therapeutics and fighting neurodegenerative disease in general.
Read more at The Daily Beast: ‘The Cure for Dementia: Eating Brains?’