Research report Aggregated proteins: are they infectious
A number of the proteins associated with degenerative diseases such as Parkinson or Alzheimer have properties that are partially similar to prions. They are native proteins that are not correctly folded, aggregate in the cell, and form ‘seeds’ which are capable of binding molecules of the same protein and inducing misfolding and aggregation. The aggregated proteins can spread to other cells but in contrast to prions have not been demonstrated to cause disease by natural transmission.
Active researchers alerted the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment of the potential link between aggregation of certain proteins and the development of neurodegenerative diseases and that exposure and transmission thus may pose health hazards. Subsequently, COGEM advised to take precautionary safety measures when working with α-synuclein, until more knowledge of properties of this protein was available.
COGEM commissioned a review of the scientific literature with focus on the protein aspects important for risk assessment and the need for safety measures. This report offers a valuable overview and insight in the current knowledge of protein aggregation and pathology, possible infectivity and transmission of aggregating proteins, and the available inactivation procedures.