Researchers at University College Medical School in London have discovered a missing link in the search for a cure for the human form of mad cows disease. A gene, called DQ7 is missing in many of the victims.
Human BSE has killed more than 100 people
New research into the link between mad cow disease and its human form, vCJD, or variant CJD, points to a missing gene in 12 percent of those infected with the disease, compared to 36 percent in the normal population.
Their research is reported in the latest edition of the science journal Nature.
Over 100 people have died of the disease so far, and the new research is based on samples of 50 vCJD patients. Too small a sample to provide conclusive evidence. But the work does provide a new lead.
"Our results suggest that the presence of DQ7 protects against vCJD," said Professor John Collinge, a leading expert on vCJD and mad cow disease.
Prof John Collinge, had discovered that variant CJD was the human form of mad cow disease in the first place.
Collinge and his colleagues found the link to DQ7 while working on the genetic makeup of 50 patients with vCJD.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare and fatal disease which affects the brain tissue. The cause of the disease is not yet known, although the link between eating infected beef and developing the condition is considered very probable.
There is no test to confirm the disease in the living.