Cornell University scientists say they have developed a nano-scale sensor that can identify the presence of the rogue protein that causes Mad Cow disease at minute levels that were previously too small to detect, and which could not be identified in living things.
The new technique, detailed in the American Chemical Society's journal Analytical Chemistry, is able to detect the binding of the prion (a protein that acts independently, almost as if it were alive) in cow blood. It could lead to a more reliable blood test for not only Mad Cow disease, but other prion diseases like scapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
Prion diseases lead to a hollowing out of the brain, leaving it pock marked like a sponge.
Researchers described the new technology as a "nanomechanical resonator array" that uses a silicon sensor like a tiny tuning fork to detect changes in changes vibrational resonant frequency when prions bind.
No word on how much money or time it would take to scale up the new detection method.
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