The prion model for progression and diversity of neurodegenerative diseases

Lancet Neurol. 2017 Apr;16(4):323-332. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(17)30037-6. Epub 2017 Feb 24.


The neuropathology of different neurodegenerative diseases begins in different brain regions, and involves distinct brain networks. Evidence indicates that transcellular propagation of protein aggregation, which is the basis of prion disease, might underlie the progression of pathology in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease. The prion model predicts specific patterns of neuronal vulnerability and network involvement on the basis of the conformation of pathological proteins. Indeed, evidence indicates that self-propagating aggregate conformers, or so-called strains, are associated with distinct neuropathological syndromes. The extension of this hypothesis to our understanding of common neurodegenerative disorders can suggest new therapeutic approaches, such as immunotherapy and small molecules, to block transcellular propagation, and new diagnostic tools to detect early evidence of disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / classification
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology*
  • Prion Diseases / pathology*