Defective Protein Found to Cause Rare Parkinson’s-like Disease

Published in the San Francisco Chronicle; 31 August 2015

By David Perlman

When Stanley B. Prusiner, a UCSF neurologist, first proposed that inert proteins he called prions could somehow fold into strange shapes and infect humans with rare diseases of the brain, his idea 30 years ago was widely dismissed as nonsense.

His critics were wrong.

Twenty years later those infectious prions—which Prusiner coined from two words, protein and infection—won him a Nobel prize, and today his Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease has its own building on the medical center’s Mission Bay campus. It’s a scientific hive where researchers, lab techs and medical students labor to understand the many disorders that endanger the human brain and the human nervous system.

Now Kurt Giles, a British-born neurologist at the UCSF Institute, is reporting that he and his colleagues have found that... Read more ...

Innovative genetic approach uncovers target of promising molecule ISRIB

ISRIB, a drug-like molecule that inhibits the integrated stress response, was identified in 2013 in Peter Walter’s lab at UCSF. The integrated stress response is a central pathway in mammalian proteostasis, disruptions to which are believed to be central in many neurodegenerative diseases. When given to mice, ISRIB enhanced memory and learning. In collaboration with the Walter lab, IND faculty Martin Kampmann utilized a functional genomics approach to discover the target of ISRIB. The action of ISRIB depends on eIF2B, a nucleotide exchange factor important for protein production. The team then confirmed that the delta subunit of elF2B is the direct target of ISRIB. This molecular understanding might enable the development of ISRIB into a drug for the treatment of human neurologic diseases.

The study was published in the April 15, 2015... Read more ...

Prusiner appointed to Board of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

Dr. Prusiner has been appointed to the Board of Directors for the Foundation of Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR). Newly created, FFAR aims to boost the US agricultural economy through private and publicly funded scientific research. Such programs include plant and animal health; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources, and environment; agricultural and food security; and agriculture systems and technology.

The 15-member board includes many prominent professors and industry leaders, highlighting the private-public partnerships emphasized by FFAR.

For more information about Dr. Prusiner's appointment, read the UCSF news announcement here.
For more information about the US 2014 Farm Bill that authorized the... Read more ...

Dr. Prusiner interviewed by Tavis Smiley on PBS


Dr. Prusiner is a featured guest on TAVIS SMILEY, the PBS talk-show television program. Among other accolades, host Tavis Smiley was named TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. Dr. Prusiner and Mr. Smiley's conversation debuts on Friday, July 25, 2014. The broadcast schedule for the San Francisco Bay Area is listed below. Check your local listings here.

  • Friday, July 25, 2014 at 9:00 PM on KQED World (Comcast channel 190 or Digital 9.3)
  • Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 12:00 AM on KQED Plus (Channel 54; Comcast channels... Read more ...