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Working Group to Study Prions

September 27, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 39

The Departments of Agriculture and of Health & Human Services have announced the creation of a federal interagency working group to facilitate research on abnormal prion proteins, which are believed to cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy and other diseases. The group, not yet established, will consist of members nominated by those government agencies that have an interest in prion science. It will review current research on prions and identify research gaps that could be funded by federal research agencies. "The working group will help coordinate federal agencies' efforts to identify research needs and share resources and expertise to gain greater understanding in addressing this threat to public health," said John H. Marburger III, director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy. The working group is a federal response to a study released in January by the Institute of Medicine that provided guidance on the establishment of a national prion research program, according to Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman. Those recommendations called for basic research to identify the structural features of prions, the mechanisms by which prions reproduce themselves, the mechanisms by which they cause disease, and the physiological function of the normal prion protein, Veneman said.


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