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MRC Prion Unit
From fundamental research to prevention and cure

The Unit's Mission

  • To study the fundamental aspects of prion biology. Prions pose revolutionary concepts. They constitute infectious agents capable of entering and colonising a host while being composed essentially of a single polypeptide, but the existence of multiple prion strains constitutes protein-based inheritance, both aspects raising challenging evolutionary questions. Similar protein-based inheritance is now well characterised with several yeast and fungal proteins.

  • To understand the wider relevance of these molecular processes in human disease. The emerging and rapidly developing field of “protein-misfolding diseases” has prion disease as a key paradigm. The commonest neurodegenerative diseases can be considered in this category, notably Alzheimer’s disease, and these processes may be a significant component of normal brain aging.

  • Tackling the specific issues posed by BSE/vCJD in the UK and leading in the development of effective means of prion sterilisation, early diagnosis, and effective therapy. The Unit also provides a specialist centre to safely handle and characterise existing and emerging human and zoonotic prion pathogens with appropriate biosecurity and expertise. 

  • The Unit plays a key role in training, capacity building and collaboration to help development of neurodegenerative disease research. The Unit has projects on Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal and other dementias where there are fundamental mechanisms in common with our core research. In addition we have ongoing collaborative projects supporting the research of others across the neurodegenerative spectrum at UCL and much more widely.