Chronic neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and prion diseases are characterised by the accumulation of abnormal conformers of a host encoded protein in the central nervous system. The process leading to neurodegeneration is still poorly defined and thus development of early intervention strategies is challenging. Unique amongst these diseases are Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) or prion diseases, which have the ability to transmit between individuals. The infectious nature of these diseases has permitted in vivo
and in vitro
modelling of the time course of the disease process in a highly reproducible manner, thus early events can be defined. Recent evidence has demonstrated that the cell-to-cell spread of protein aggregates by a “prion-like mechanism” is common among the protein misfolding diseases. Thus, the TSE models may provide insights into disease mechanisms and testable hypotheses for disease intervention, applicable to a number of these chronic neurodegenerative diseases.
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