The Madness and Memory The Discovery of Prions — A New Biological Principle of Disease Nobel Prize in Medicine - Publication date : March 4, 2015
Stanley B. Prusiner is the director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1997.
Stanley B. Prusiner, a neurobiologist at the University of California, is very tenacious. When in the early 1970s he became interested in a rare disease known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob, he was determined to find out what caused the brain to develop holes like a sponge.
When Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (popularly known as ‘mad cow disease’) hit the headlines in the 1990s, scientific researchers began looking for clues that would reveal the infectious agent, whether parasitic bacterium or virus, that was responsible for the epidemic.
But Prusiner continued searching along other lines, in an area that was completely disparaged by other scientists. His first heresy was to imagine a non-living infectious agent, in other words, a totally new mode of infection. His second heresy was to identify that agent with a ‘normal’ but slightly distorted protein, and he showed that the distortion could spread to other, normal, proteins.
The disease could thus be said to be ‘geometric’. Although his ideas were met with derision, Prusiner persisted, and he successfully demonstrated that the distorted proteins, or prions, are responsible for spongiform encephalopathy, and may play a crucial role in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases — a discovery for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1997.
Not only does this book tell the story of a major scientific discovery, it is also an illuminating memoir of life within the scientific community.
• An indispensible work for biologists and historians of science.
• The amazing discovery of prions, which resulted in a scientific revolution.
• A gripping scientific adventure.