Brain diseases an outcome of cannibalism

by Medindia Content Team on  May 7, 2003 at 5:55 PM General Health News
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Brain diseases an outcome of cannibalism
The main cause of deadly brain-wasting diseases might be just what the researchers have for long been prodding into - Cannibalism. Abnormal proteins called the prions resultantly cause a brain-wasting disease called Creutzfeld Jacob disease (CJD) and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease in humans. The presence of this protein causes other proteins to be clumped together. CJD is usually found in large numbers in people who take flesh with infectious prions. These as a result kill the brain cells. This disease is found in about one in a million people. A disease called kuru common among the Fore people in Papua New Guinea was mainly due to eating their deceased relatives in the mortuary feasts. There are genetic mutations called polymorphisms which resist the disease. Researchers have reported that natural selection appears to have spread through the population.

Pinpointing the selection pressure Research on women who feasted on the deceased ones was carried out. It suggested that there is a certain genetic variation and mutation which is more prevalent in women over 50 than young women. Some women who feasted on the deceased ones and yet were living were tested by the researchers. Ample evidence suggests that the protective mutation through generations had protected them from disease. The mutation protects against CJD too. Mutations do protect from diseases, with evidences from pre-historic age. There is much skepticism about the fact that all the early human being were cannibals.

The protective mutations now appear in the DNA of people around the world. Other prion researchers want to verify the findings with data from larger population samples. Since prions can cross between species, it is also possible that eating animals
with prion diseases could have contributed to the spread of the protective gene. The protective mutations now appear in the DNA of people around the world. Other prion researchers want to verify the findings with data from larger population samples. Since prions can cross between species, it is also possible that eating animals with prion diseases could have contributed to the spread of the protective gene.

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