Recent advances in cellular models for discovering prion disease therapeutics


Expert Opinion on Drug Discovery


17 September, 2022


Lea Nikolić, Chiara Ferracin, Giuseppe Legname

Introduction: Prion diseases are a group of rare and lethal, rapidly progressive neurodegenerative diseases arising due to conversion of the physiological cellular prion protein into its pathological counterparts, denoted as 'prions.' These agents are resistant to inactivation by standard decontamination procedures and can be transmitted between individuals, consequently driving the irreversible brain damage typical of the diseases.

Areas covered: Since its infancy, prion research has mainly depended on animal models for untangling the pathogenesis of the disease as well as for the drug development studies. With the advent of prion-infected cell lines, relevant animal models have been complemented by a variety of cell-based models presenting a much faster, ethically acceptable alternative.

Expert opinion: To date, there are still either no effective prophylactic regimens or therapies for human prion diseases. Therefore, there is an urgent need for more relevant cellular models that best approximate in vivo models. Each cellular model presented and discussed in detail in this review has its own benefits and limitations. Once embarking in a drug screening campaign for the identification of molecules that could interfere with prion conversion and replication, one should carefully consider the ideal cellular model.