Does “Lifeless” Prion Evolution Demonstrate Anything Significant?

I was recently asked by an e-mailer to comment on a new study about evolution of prions based via a process like Darwinian selection. Prions are misfolded proteins (or misfolded protein complexes). They aren’t alive. They can’t replicate on their own. They require their host’s cellular machinery for producing new proteins they can “misfold” in order to propagate. Prions can be dangerous because they propagate themselves by misfolding other properly folded proteins produced in the cell. The misfolded proteins don’t always function property, and this can disrupt activity in the cell. As the BBC article states, “Prions are associated with 20 different brain diseases in humans and animals.” The new research just shows that prions don’t always make perfect copies Read More ›