KAIROS, LATIN STOCK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY KAIROS, LATIN STOCK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Artwork of a few virus-like organisms, known as prions (green), attacking a neurone cell. Prions are small proteins which appear to be self- replicating but unlike common viruses are completely devoid of nucleic acid such as DNA or RNA. Therefore they may represent the first exception to the rule that all self-replicating entities must contain nucleic acid as genetic material. They contain only a few hundred amino acids and may be 100 times smaller than the smallest virus. It has been suggested that prions may be responsible for some degenerative brain conditions such as the rare Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease or the commoner Alzheimer's disease.
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