Summary Of Mad Cow Chronic Wasting By Philip Yam

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The book “The Pathological Protein: Mad Cow, Chronic Wasting, and other Deadly Prion Diseases” by Philip Yam skillfully describes all of the ailments that patients mysteriously suffered while doctors and researchers struggled to find a solution. The illnesses that all of these patients suffered from were transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), which cause the patients to have small holes in their brains to the point where their brains resemble sponges. Philip Yam was once a news editor, a features editor, and the managing editor for Scientific American, a popular science magazine. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Simons Foundation, which supports the furthering of scientific research through grants given to scientists. Along …show more content…

Almost instantly it seems that he goes from wanting to be a pilot in the military to being completely reliant on other people to care for him while in a nursing home. At the time, doctors and researchers were baffled by the boy’s symptoms because, after performing many routine tests, nothing was out of normal. The doctors knew that the illness the boy was battling was nothing like they had seen before, but they suspected he had Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. However, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease was only thought to be “an illness of people in their sixties” (12). Next, the author explains how Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease was found, and he also goes on to tell that the 19 year old boy’s illness has many differences when compared to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. The next focal point lands on the villagers of Papua New Guinea who also happen to regularly partake in cannibalism. It was observed that the women of that village were often coming down with an illness that the locals called kuru, “meaning to shake or tremble” (26). Kuru began with aching limbs and progressed to an unusual gait, and it ended with the victims being unable to swallow because the muscles stopped working. The brains of the victims of kuru were sent to be researched, and this act is what led one veterinarian to notice the similarities between the …show more content…

Often the sheep would scrape their fur until the point that their skin was raw. After several years of research, scientists discovered that scrapie produced holes in the brains of sheep that resembled a sponge—much like Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Next, the tiny TSE pathogen was thought to be discovered, and “soon, other unusual properties of the agent became apparent” (56). Perhaps the most baffling characteristic of the TSE pathogen was its ability to withstand amazing amounts of heat without dying. Also, the scrapie agent could function without genes which also amazed many scientists. Finally, it was hypothesized that the scrapie agent was a “malformed version of a normal protein” (58). Even though the scrapie agent, or prion, could function without genes, it could still pass on hereditary information. This was proved by using yeast cells that “provided unquestionable proof that proteins can act as elements of inheritance” (87). Later, even more TSEs that affected animals emerged, including feline TSEs. Once it travelled to other animals, it became apparent that the prion had somehow taken a new form, and many worried it would soon be transmissible to humans. Even though prions and TSEs have been extensively researched, scientists still are not sure what forces a normal protein to go awry and turn into a prion. Nonetheless, some are already attempting to cure

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