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BSE and the prion hypothesis


Why BSE affected young people
Aaron Klug Scientist
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The mystery about young people being infected, I... it's never been settled. I just don't believe that they are especially susceptible. I think it's very simple. If you have a son who has been a student and learns to eat fast food and so on, that's what it is. They eat pies and in pies... you know what they put into pies. They put the lungs, the sweetbreads, the brains, everything, and although I argued this, it's never been pursued or accepted, because you can't go back and start doing experiments. I think it's a matter of their diet. There were all sorts of other side issues, I mean, animals in the zoo began being... getting BSE... antelopes... and things related to cattle and that was fairly easy to explain, because again they were feeding them on bone meal. And particularly the feeding of bone meal was particularly done to ewes... to pregnant cattle because it was... to strengthen them. Farmers did that sort of thing, you know, the way that you... all sorts of practices, so it was quite interesting being in the middle of all this.

Born in Lithuania, Aaron Klug (1926-2018) was a British chemist and biophysicist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982 for developments in electron microscopy and his work on complexes of nucleic acids and proteins. He studied crystallography at the University of Cape Town before moving to England, completing his doctorate in 1953 at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1981, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. His long and influential career led to a knighthood in 1988. He was also elected President of the Royal Society, and served there from 1995-2000.

Listeners: Ken Holmes John Finch

Kenneth Holmes was born in London in 1934 and attended schools in Chiswick. He obtained his BA at St Johns College, Cambridge. He obtained his PhD at Birkbeck College, London working on the structure of tobacco mosaic virus with Rosalind Franklin and Aaron Klug. After a post-doc at Childrens' Hospital, Boston, where he started to work on muscle structure, he joined to the newly opened Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge where he stayed for six years. He worked with Aaron Klug on virus structure and with Hugh Huxley on muscle. He then moved to Heidelberg to open the Department of Biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research where he remained as director until his retirement. During this time he completed the structure of tobacco mosaic virus and solved the structures of a number of protein molecules including the structure of the muscle protein actin and the actin filament. Recently he has worked on the molecular mechanism of muscle contraction. He also initiated the use of synchrotron radiation as a source for X-ray diffraction and founded the EMBL outstation at DESY Hamburg. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1981 and is a member of a number of scientific academies.

John Finch is a retired member of staff of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. He began research as a PhD student of Rosalind Franklin's at Birkbeck College, London in 1955 studying the structure of small viruses by x-ray diffraction. He came to Cambridge as part of Aaron Klug's team in 1962 and has continued with the structural study of viruses and other nucleoproteins such as chromatin, using both x-rays and electron microscopy.

Tags: BSE, Mad Cow Disease, young people, diet

Duration: 1 minute, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008