∞ generated and posted on 2016.08.29 ∞
Infectious proteins, particularly which lack nucleic acids but nevertheless possess an ability to catalyze an increase in their own numbers.
Prions are infectious because they possess an ability to modify non-prion proteins into prion proteins. In particular, a prion can be described as a potential destructive, misfolded form of a protein that, when interacting with the non-misfolded form of similar proteins can give rise to the latter becoming similarly misfolded.
Though not actually living things, prions cause such important diseases as mad cow disease, scrapie (an equivalent disease to mad cow disease found in sheep), kuru (an equivalent disease in humans), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (another human disease). These diseases typically have a neurodegenerative component, giving rise to what are known as spongiform encephalopathies. These matters are also discussedhere.