A new study from Yale has found a link between Alzheimer's and prion
proteins. NPR is reporting this today as a similarity between "Mad Cow
Disease" (BSE) and Alzheimer's, although near the end of the piece they say
there isn't necessarily a link (the story isn't online yet, so I can't
double-check their wording).
Prion proteins occur in everyone's cells, and normally don't cause a
problem. In the case of BSE, something causes the prion protein to form in
a different shape, and the result is it causes the disease.
It is possible that prion proteins are susceptible to being influenced in a
number of ways, with varying results. I suspect (and certainly hope) there
is not a causative link between BSE and Alzheimer's.
This is exciting news from the Alzheimer's front, because it provides a new
direction for research and implicates a well-studied protein. However,
since prion proteins are also involved in BSE we will be seeing more BSE
confusion in the news.
Here's the Yale research...