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Monday, April 27, 2015

What is a Prion?

What is a Prion? 

A prion is a nonliving, self-replicating infectious agent made of protein. It can reproduce with the aid of its host's biological machinery, like a virus. "Prion" is short for "proteinaceous infectious particle."

The idea of an infectious agent lacking nucleic acids for reproduction was initially met with skepticism when the idea was proposed in the 60s, because such a phenomenon had never been observed before. While self-replicating nucleic acid-based entities are well-understood, the mechanism of self-replication among prions is still a mystery. Prions found in animals exclusively infect the brain, are fatal and untreatable. Prions have been discovered in fungi, but rather than damaging them, it is theorized that they may play a symbiotic role in the fungi's immune system. Read more

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