Treatment with a non-toxic, self-replicating anti-prion delays or prevents prion disease in vivo
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are fatal neurological disorders caused by prions, which are composed of a misfolded protein (PrPSc) that self-propagates in the brain of infected individuals by converting the normal prion protein (PrPC) into the pathological isoform. Here, we report a novel experimental strategy for preventing prion disease based on producing a self-replicating, but innocuous PrPSc-like form, termed anti-prion, which can compete with the replication of pathogenic prions. Our results show that a prophylactic inoculation of prion-infected animals with an anti-prion delays the onset of the disease and in some animals completely prevents the development of clinical symptoms and brain damage. The data indicate that a single injection of the anti-prion eliminated ˜ 99% of the infectivity associated to pathogenic prions. Furthermore, this treatment caused significant changes in the profile of regional PrPSc deposition in the brains of animals that were treated, but still succumbed to the disease. Our findings provide new insights for a mechanistic understanding of prion replication and support the concept that prion replication can be separated from toxicity, providing a novel target for therapeutic intervention.