Posted November 04, 2019 11:14:27When you think of prions, you probably think of those little white balls that come into your body when you are sick, especially if you have certain types of allergies or cancer.
But what about those tiny white balls of tissue that are the result of cancer?
In the case of the primate brain, that tissue can actually be prions.
The first primate to be diagnosed with cancer and the first to die of the disease, Panthera gorillas were first identified in 1976, and the name Panthera came from the Latin word meaning “gorgeous,” or “bright.”
Panthers are the largest primate species on Earth, with a brain that is twice the size of an adult human’s brain.
The primate’s brains are so large, in fact, that the human brain is only roughly twice as big as the gorilla brain.
Pangolins and other large animals are the most common predators of these primates, and scientists have discovered that the prions have the ability to turn off the central nervous system, resulting in paralysis.
But when scientists looked at Panthera’s brain tissue, they found that the tumors were caused by cancer.
In fact, the tumors, when treated with drugs called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), killed most of the tumors.
When Panthera died, her tumor mass had shrunk to less than a centimeter in diameter, and she had no brain tumors.
In contrast, Prion Disease (PDA), a very common cause of brain tumors in humans, kills around one-third of all primates, according to researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Panthea’s tumor mass was so small, the scientists couldn’t see what it looked like in the animals’ eyes.
Instead, they had to use a microscope to view the tiny white spots that were growing inside her brain, and those spots looked exactly like the tumors that she had lost.
When they scanned the brains of Panthera and Prion patients, they also found that they were almost identical.
“It was as if they were one in the same,” says Dr. Scott M. Hausman, a researcher at the NIH who has studied the prion disease.
Hausman and his colleagues began investigating Panthera in 2010, and they began using a technique called immunofluorescence to examine her brain.
They began by measuring the amount of TNF-α and C-reactive protein (CRP) in her brain using a blood sample.
The researchers then used this information to identify the tumors in the tumors they were seeing, and found that PDA and Panthera were indeed two different cases of the same tumor.
The researchers then showed Hausmann a small, white spot that they had made using a fluorescence microscope.
They then asked him to imagine how a tumor might look if it had been placed in his or her brain and asked him what it might look like in a live animal.
“If you could imagine it in your mind, you would know that it would look like a tumor,” Hausmen says.
The spots on Panthera, Hausmans said, were the same spots that she would have seen on the tumors she was seeing in her animals.
Husmans and his team found that Panthera had more tumors in her tumors than PDA did.
And when they looked at how the tumors on Pantheras brains had shrunk, they were not just shrinking in size.
They were shrinking in color.
“We’ve found that these are really, really, pretty unusual tumors,” Hussmans says.
In humans, the TNF protein is found in white blood cells and is linked to the production of antibodies that can kill cancer cells.
But in Panthera the TFI protein was found only in her tumor tissue, and it didn’t show up in any other tissues.
“In human tumors, we have seen the effects of TFI proteins, and that can lead to tissue damage,” Hrusman says.
“So, it was quite surprising to find that in the primes, there were no TFI [TNF] proteins at all in the tumor tissue.”
In addition to finding tumors in Pantheras tumors, the researchers also found tumors in some of the other primate brains they studied.
In the case on Prion, the new finding is that these tumors were in the brains’ blood vessels.
“The tumors are also found in the brainstem and the hippocampus,” says Hauslands research team, who published their findings in Science.
“What we saw is that we see a tumor that is being turned off in the animal, and then in the human, we see it is turned on again, which suggests to us that the tumor is being activated again.”
Hausmans and colleagues are now working