Lab Canada

Mysterious prions exposed in Ingram book

Toronto, ON — Jay Ingram, science popularist, TV host, producer and author has released a book on prions that unveils stunning revelations about disease, the brain and infection. Fatal Flaws: How a Misfolded Protein Baffled Scientists and Changed the Way We Look at the Brain, argues that, while most people are barely aware of prion diseases, except for perhaps “mad cow” disease, prions are the makings of a revolutionary science that may lead to cures for some of humankind’s most devastating diseases. The book delves into this scientific mystery, starting with the discovery of Kuru, a disease unique to New Guinea in the 1950s that carried with it whispers of cannibalism. Kuru began a scientific saga until the 1980’s when Nobel Laureate Dr. Stanley Prusiner coined the term “prion” — a misfolded protein — whose existence some of the world’s top scientists still find difficult to accept. This is because the prion (proteinaceous infectious particle) was hypothesized to have a very unique mechanism of infectivity. Unlike other disorders like cancer that use genetic material such as DNA or RNA to cause disease, prions act as a template that “switches” normal cells into toxic disease agents without the use of genetic material. Ingram argues that these proteins might promise new treatments for some of the most intractable brain diseases, ones that affect millions around the planet, including Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s and more recently, chronic trauma encephalopathy cause by repeated concussions. Fatal Flaws is published by Harper Collins Canada.