Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Soto: In this study we describe for the first time the highly sensitive detection of prions in human urine, specifically in samples from patients affected by the variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which is the disease produced by infection with prions associated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease. For detection we used the protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) technique which amplifies the amount of abnormal prion protein in a cyclical manner conceptually analogous to the polymerize chain reaction. We detected prions in 13 of the 14 vCJD cases analyzed, and the only negative was a sample coming from a patient under treatment with a experimental drug injected directly into the brain. No false positive were observed in the more than 200 cases analyzed. The concentration of abnormal prion protein in urine was estimated at 1×10^-16 g/ml, or 3×10^-21 moles/ml, which extrapolates to ~40-100 particles per ml of urine.