Why does digestion degrade prions?

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Offline thedoc

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Why does digestion degrade prions?
« on: 13/12/2013 10:30:01 »
Triant Elef asked the Naked Scientists:
   
As prions enter the organism through food, why are not they decomposed to their constituent amino acids? Why are they left intact to perform their pathogenic task?

Thank you.

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 13/12/2013 10:30:01 by _system »

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Offline evan_au

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Re: Why does digestion degrade prions?
« Reply #1 on: 15/12/2013 10:24:34 »
The gut is very effective at breaking down most proteins into their constituent amino acids for absorption, acting as a strong barrier against infection.

However, the abnormally-folded prion protein forms a fairly stable crystal, and resists normal conditions that would degrade proteins and DNA in bacteria and viruses.

Special techniques are recommended to sterilise medical equipment exposed to prions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prion#Sterilization