• Question: What is it about the prion structure that makes it resistant to digestion by stomach acids?

    Asked by rockpeacepunk to Alex, Josh, Serena, Simone, Stuart on 21 Jun 2013.
    • Photo: Alexander Munnoch

      Alexander Munnoch answered on 21 Jun 2013:

      I’m not entirely sure I not familiar with it but some explanation is that the external surface of the prion is hydrophobic (rejects mixing polar solvents like water/acids and bases) and as such it is not broken down under the acidic conditions of the stomach. (I could be wrong though as I’ve not read up on it).

    • Photo: Stuart Archer

      Stuart Archer answered on 21 Jun 2013:

      Prions are actually very simple compared to viruses and other diseases – they consist of a protein that hasn’t folded up into the correct shape. It’s actually this ‘wrong’ shape that gives them their protection – they’ve folded up so tightly that the strong acid in your stomach can’t find any chemical groups on them to attack. You need to heat them up to over 100 degrees C in strong acid or alkali for them to start breaking down.