Research Highlights

Genes for Mad Cow Disease Spotted (2009.3.26)

2009-09-22 1,912

Mad cow disease made headlines in the early 2000s when 4.4 million cattle in the United Kingdom alone were killed as a precaution against it. Now, there may be a way to not only trace the disease in its incubation period but also medically treat it.

Professor Daehee Hwang (School of Interdisciplinary Bioscience and Bioengineering) and his group, in collaboration with the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), the McLaughlin Research Institute, the University of California, San Francisco, the Allen Brain Institute, and the European Bioinformatics Institute, have spotted a set of genes that go haywire in mice infected with a form of mad cow disease.

The research group infected 5 different kinds of mice with 2 types of prion extracted from sheep and cattle, and took 30 million measurements from the brains of the infected mice, and used high-powered statistical and computer models to separate signal from noise. They were able to narrow it down to 7,400 genes – about one-third of the mouse genome – that were affected by the misfolded prions, which was again narrowed down to 333 “core” genes that were perturbed.

Researchers looked at the genes at 10 different time points, and noted which genes were altered for weeks before symptoms showed up. Some of these genes make proteins that are secreted into the blood, which could make for a relatively practical new diagnostic test, they said.

The system developed through this study can be applied to the study of other intractable diseases including cancers, degenerative brain diseases, autoimmune diseases, and infections, making possible the discrimination of the core genes in the development and progress of the diseases, Professor Hwang commented.

The findings were published online in the March 24 online issue of Molecular Systems Biology.

Professor Daehee Hwang
School of Interdisciplinary Bioscience and Bioengineering
Tel: +82-54-279-2393
Fax: +82-54-279-8409
E-mail: dhhwang@postech.ac.kr