Thanks to some genetically engineered cattle, researchers think they may have the tools to better grasp how prions cause disease. According to the scientific journal, Nature Biotechnology, USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists recently evaluated cattle that have been genetically modified to not produce prions.

These cattle can help in the exploration and improved understanding of how prions function and cause disease, especially in relation to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, says Edward B. Knipling, administrator of ARS. “In particular, cattle lacking the gene that produces prions can help scientists test the resistance to prion propagation, not only in the laboratory, but in live animals as well.”

To access the report, go to: www.nature.com/nbt/.