Team finds protein-unfolding factor in hunt for BSE cure

A research group said Monday it has discovered a protein-unfolding factor they hope can be used to combat mad cow disease and other protein-caused malignant maladies.

The discovery of the factor — Unfoldin — was made by the group led by Naomi Hachiya of the National Institute of Neuroscience in Kodaira, suburban Tokyo.

Unfoldin unfolds abnormal prion protein, the chief cause of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, and its human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the researchers said.

The protein-unfolding factor is expected to be used against those diseases because the abnormal structure of prions, once unfolded, will be resolved by enzymes in the body.

The researchers said the scissorslike factor they found in yeast cells also unfolds other types of protein that cause Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

It is the first time for a factor that can unfold any type of protein structure to be discovered, they said.