Research on sheep suggests that testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy could someday be as simple as shining a special light in the eyes of cattle.
Eye tissue from sheep infected with scrapie, a transmissible disease similar to BSE, had a characteristic glow and fluoresced more than uninfected samples when subjected to particular light. Researchers from Iowa State University and the National Animal Disease Center examined retinas from 73 sheep, of which 35 had scrapie.
Research indicates that prions, abnormal proteins linked to a variety of brain diseases, may change the chemistry of the retina.
The researchers hope these findings could lead to a fast, inexpensive method for diagnosing some neurological diseases in animals.