Scientists chase tenderto isolate scrapie gene

11 July 1997

Scientists chase tenderto isolate scrapie gene

SCIENTISTS are hoping to win a MAFF contract to try to combat scrapie through the removal of the PrP gene in sheep.

The Roslin Institute and the neuro-pathogenesis unit at the Institute of Animal Health, Edinburgh, have submitted a tender to carry out the work. MAFF is expected to announce the contract winner next month. It follows successful trials with mice where scientists isolated and sequenced the PrP gene.

Roslins Dr Ian Wilmut said progress was good but more work needed. "There are still a number of unanswered questions, such as whether scrapie could still be passed from one generation to another even with the gene taken out?

Dr Wilmut said that if successful, the work could be transferred to cattle in the hope of removing the BSE gene. "Britain is well-placed to carry out this research with our cloning technique, though similar experiments in cattle are also taking place in Switzerland and California in the United States."

Gene manipulation is continuing apace across Europe. Dutch company Pharming has started to generate new, improved, lines of transgenic cattle, which have had an extra synthetic gene added. Milk from these cows contains human lactoferrin, which can be used to treat gastro-intestinal infection of cancer patients.n

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