Prions Can Pass On Beneficial Traits, Jarosz Lab Study Finds

Researchers have found nearly 50 helpful prions in yeast and comparable proteins in humans, suggesting that this dreaded protein type can boost survival and plays a role in evolution.  Prion proteins, best known as the agents of deadly brain disorders like mad cow disease, can help yeast survive hard times and pass the advantageous traits down to their offspring, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The study, published in the Oct. 6 issue of Cell and already available online, indicates that in yeast, and possibly other organisms, including humans, protein-based inheritance is more widespread than previously believed — and could play a role in evolution.