New research suggests illnesses as diverse as Alzheimer's, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and adult-onset diabetes are caused by proteins that fold themselves into defective shapes, rather than proteins that have undergone harmful chemical changes.
As they develop, these aberrant protein forms can clump together and wreak molecular havoc on healthy cells, according to two studies in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
Previously, scientists believed that misfolding was an unusual occurrence limited to perhaps 20 or more protein types.
Instead, the effect may be common to any protein in the body, the researchers reported. Why it occurs remains unclear, but the process is believed to be associated with diseases that take decades to develop.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.