Researchers develop method to check cows' brain waves for mad cow disease

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A research institute claims to have developed a method of checking cows' brain waves generated in reaction to sounds to see if they have been infected with mad cow disease.

Experts say the method developed by the National Institute of Animal Health (NIAH) will likely draw attention as a way to quickly check if cows have contracted bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

"We'll try to make inspection devices small enough to be portable to help detect the disease at farms," said NIAH senior researcher Shozo Arai.

BSE develops when abnormal prion protein accumulates in the brain. It is difficult to judge whether cows have been infected with BSE from their appearance of symptoms, even though they show such symptoms as shaking legs.

An NIAH team transplanted part of the brains of cows infected with BSE into the brains of 11 healthy cows and examined their brain waves and other conditions.

They began to show typical symptoms of BSE, such as shaking legs and the inability to stand 22 to 24 months after the transplantation.

Moreover, about 22 months after the transplants, the cows' reactions to sounds in their brain waves began to slow down. Abnormalities were detected in the brain waves of all 11 cows involved in the experiment.

NIAH researchers believe that the cows' auditory nerves were damaged, distorting their brain wave patterns.

The team will continue the experiment and accumulate data to increase the accuracy of the tests.

Click here for the original Japanese story

(Mainichi Japan) September 25, 2008



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