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Mad Cow Eyes

October 4, 2010

It may be possible to detect mad cow disease by shining light into an animal’s eyes.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Eye diagnoses…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Mad cow disease can result when proteins called prions attack the central nervous system. Humans can contract the deadly disease by consuming brain or spinal cord tissue from infected animals. Iowa State University physical chemist Jacob Petrich says prion damage produces pigments that glow in the presence of light. He thinks it may one day be possible to screen for mad cow disease by shining light into an animal’s eyes. His team tested the method on the eyes of sheep infected with scrapie, a different form of the disease.

JACOB PETRICH (Iowa State University):
The scrapie-positive retinas not only fluoresced intensely, but they gave structured fluorescence.

HIRSHON:
In contrast, the eyes of sheep without the disease did not glow at all. He says similar techniques might be used to detect neurological disorders in humans. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.