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Faculty Baden Lecture - Dale Cameron

“Getting into shape: Heritable changes in protein structure as a mechanism for enhancing survival”

Proteins carry out many different tasks in cells, but in order to be functional each protein must first fold into the correct three dimensional structure. Misfolded proteins cannot carry out their normal functions and may sometimes even take on new, potentially toxic functions. Prions are a very unique class of misfolded proteins that can propagate their misshapen structures infectiously, converted normally folded copies of the protein to the prion conformation. Prions are the cause of diseases like “mad cow” disease, scrapie in sheep, chronic wasting disease in deer and elk, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. 

 

Are prions really just aberrant, disease-causing protein structures, or could they be part of a biologically important mechanism for propagating altered cellular states? Come find out!