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Mad Cows and mysterious brain tangles: what happens when protein folding goes wrong?

Author Information

  • Name: Lannah Abasi
  • Position and Institution: Graduate student, University of California San Diego
  • Contact:
  • Available for contact for questions and classroom visits: Yes
  • Year contributed: 2020


  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • Science Domain: Life Sciences
  • PE Code: HS-LS1-1


Proteins are the molecular machines of cells, specialized to do anything from speeding up chemical reactions to acting as structural support. The fold, or shape, of proteins is essential to their ability to function, and without it, cells can lose critical functions needed for survival and homeostasis. But what happens when protein folding goes wrong? In the bizarre cases, prion proteins can misfold into a rogue infectious fold, capable of converting other healthy proteins into the dangerous fold that can form clumps and result in neurodegeneration. In the more common cases of genetic diseases, mutations in DNA can disrupt a protein’s structure and make it non-functional. In this lesson, students learn the importance of protein folding to function and explains why scientists are still studying it today.


  • Proteins
  • misfolding
  • disease
  • genetic mutation
  • prions


sandiego/mad_cows_and_mysterious_brain_tangles_-_what_happens_when_protein_folding_goes_wrong.txt · Last modified: 2020/11/06 18:40 (external edit)