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Bioassays and Inactivation of Prions


The experimental study of prions requires a model for their propagation. However, because prions lack nucleic acids, the simple techniques used to replicate bacteria and viruses are not applicable. For much of the history of prion research, time-consuming bioassays in animals were the only option for measuring infectivity. Although cell models and other in vitro tools for the propagation of prions have been developed, they all suffer limitations, and animal bioassays remain the gold standard for measuring infectivity. A wealth of recent data argues that both β-amyloid (Aβ) and tau proteins form prions that cause Alzheimer's disease, and α-synuclein forms prions that cause multiple system atrophy and Parkinson's disease. Cell and animal models that recapitulate some of the key features of cell-to-cell spreading and distinct strains of prions can now be measured.

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