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Mad-cow culprit maintains stem cells

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (January 30, 2006) — What do mad cow disease and stem cell research have in common? Whitehead Institute scientists have found that the same protein that causes neurodegenerative conditions such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) is also important for helping certain adult stem cells maintain themselves.

"For years we've wondered why evolution has preserved this protein, what positive role it could possibly be playing," says Whitehead Member Susan Lindquist. Along with Whitehead Member Harvey Lodish, Lindquist is a coauthor on the paper which will published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of January 30. "With these findings, we have our first answer," she says.

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