ALFRED PASIEKA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ALFRED PASIEKA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Prion protein. Computer artwork of part of a prion protein on a light micrograph of pyramidal nerve cells (neurones, black) from the brain's cerebellum. Prions destroy brain tissue, causing diseases such as BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cows and CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) in humans. They are a mutated form of a normal cell protein (PrP). The atoms are colour- coded: hydrogen (light blue), carbon (orange), oxygen (red) and nitrogen (dark blue). Prions contain spiralling amino acid alpha-helices (purple and orange). This is the rigid half of the protein. The other half (not shown) varies in shape, with one form thought to cause CJD and BSE.
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