Season 2

Episode 20 Prions: Apocalypse Cow


This week’s episode is nothing like any of our past episodes, and there will never be another quite like it. How can we be so sure, you ask? Because this week, we’re covering prions, the terrifying, genetic material-less infection that is 100% fatal and caused by nothing more than a humble protein. And not just any protein, a protein you already have in your body. Are you sweating yet? Good. Then settle in and listen to the amazing biology of this terrifying twisted proteinacious particle, the fascinating and fraught history that led to its discovery, and the current research on just how scared you need to be of prions in your brain.


History Biology
Mead, S., Stumpf, M. P., Whitfield, J., Beck, J. A., Poulter, M., Campbell, T., … & Collinge, J. (2003). Balancing selection at the prion protein gene consistent with prehistoric kurulike epidemics. Science, 300(5619), 640-643. Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy in humans” Belay 1999
The Family that Couldn’t Sleep: A Medical Mystery by D.T. Max The public health impact of prion diseases” Belay and Schonberger 2005
Madness and Memory by Stanley Prusiner Darwinian Evolution of Prions in Cell Culture” Li et al 2010
WHO guidelines on tissue infectivity distribution in TSEs” WHO, 2006
New Inhibitors of Scrapie-Associated Prion Protein Formation in a Library of 2,000 Drugs and Natural Products” Kocisco et al. 2003
Treatment of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy by Intraventricular Drug Infusion in Animal Models” Doh-ura et al 2004