Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Some good news, for a change, on the CWD front

A piece of good news has arrived from the chronic wasting disease (CWD) front: Scientists think that a quirk in human genetics can thwart – in us  – this fatal infectious disease that otherwise  slowly is killing off populations of North American elk and deer.

It’s complicated. But researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, have figured out the human proteins aren't corrupted when exposed to affected elk prions. Prions are a disease-causing form of a normal protein that is located primarily on the surface of central nervous system cells but also in other tissues of the body in mammals.

For Ohioans, that is newly important inasmuch as the state recently joined the ranks of CWD-infested states, thanks to careless oversight of interstate trade in captive deer for aptly called “canned” preserve hunts.

The UC-SDSM researchers used specially prepared mice, the genetics of which were designed expressly to bear an altered form of the normal human prion protein. The research recently was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. It identifies a small loop in the human prion protein that confers resistance to CWD.

"Since the loop has been found to be a key segment in prion protein aggregation, this site could be targeted for the development of new therapeutics designed to block prion conversion," said Christina Sigurdson, DVM, PhD, associate professor at UC San Diego and UC Davis and senior author of the study.

In addition to chronic wasting disease in the deer family, other examples of prion-related diseases include scrapie in sheep and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (or "mad cow disease") in animals, and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. In humans, prion diseases can cause a variety of rapidly progressive neurological symptoms, such as difficulty walking and speaking, and dementia. These diseases are 100 percent fatal and there is currently no effective treatment.

"We suspected that a loop in the human prion protein structure may block the elk prions from binding, as the sequences did not appear to be compatible," Sigurdson said. "This finding suggests that the loop structure is crucial to prion conversion and that sequence compatibility with the host prion protein at this site is required for the transmission of certain prion diseases."

So the impact of CWD in the deer family, which develops very slowly but seemingly is unstoppably in wild deer and elk herds once they are infected, at least may not hurt humans. Note that the research discussed here refers to elk, not the more widespread white-tailed deer or even mule deer. But since CWD affects the entire deer family, it is hoped that what applies to elk also applies to deer. One only can hope that additional study proves it.

Share on Social


Hand-Picked For You

Related Articles