What is the Prion Project?

The Prion Project is aimed at learning about the molecular details of the prion misfolding process. Specifically we are attempting to answer three key questions:

  1. How does the normal prion (PrPc) actually unfold and aggregate?
  2. What does the abnormal prion (PrPsc) actually look like?
  3. Are there fundamental differences between PrPsc made in the test tube and PrPsc made in the brain?

By addressing these questions we can potentially develop a better understanding of most prion diseases, better ways of detecting them early and potentially new routes to curing them. This project builds upon the work of an earlier APRI core project (funded from 2006-2009) that applied the tools of structural biology, biophysics, biochemistry, nanotechnology, molecular biology and bio-computing to understand the mechanisms of prion misfolding. In the second phase of this project we will use the tools, techniques an knowledge developed from phase I, along with some recently developed techniques (optical tweezers, solid state NMR, microwave hydrolysis, essential dynamic modeling) to extend our studies even further.

The University of Alberta has numerous prion-related research projects on-going in the faculties of Science and Agriculture, Forest and Human Ecology. Moreover, the university houses the Centre for Prions and Protein Folding Diseases. The Prion Project benefits through interactions with these other world-class prion research initiatives at the University of Alberta as well as others across Canada.