Scientist Jay Ingram set to lecture at Red Deer College

The host of Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet program and one of Canada’s best known popular scientists, Jay Ingram, will discuss the mystery behind prion diseases like mad cow disease this Friday in Red Deer.

His free lecture, The Prion Diaries: Fatal Brain Diseases in Humans and Animals, is this Friday, April 1 at the Margaret Parsons Theatre at Red Deer College at 5:30 p.m. A reception will follow at 6:30 p.m.

“Prions are an amazing story,” he said. “How most of these diseases started is a complete mystery. Research coming out now may connect them with much more common diseases like Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig (ALS) and Parkinsons’s, in that they develop and spread in the brain. This might turn out to be the most important discovery of the research. This is all speculative, but fascinating.”

A prion is an infectious agent made up of a protein in misfolded form. It was coined in 1982 by combining the words protein and infection. Prions are responsible for a variety of diseases like bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease, and chronic wasting disease in animals.

They are also behind human diseases like Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease. The common factor is that prion diseases are untreatable and fatal, and affect the structure of the brain and other nerve tissue in animals and people.

Prion diseases are relatively rare; for example, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease only occurs in one person per million in Canada, perhaps 35 cases annually.

One of the first prion diseases to come to light is called kuru, in Papua – New Guinea. It was caused by cannibalism, people eating other people’s brains. Ingram said at first researchers didn’t understand why people were dying and it was eventually anthropologists who noticed that fewer young people were dying as cannibalism was ending.

Ingram said that even more than 50 years after cannibalism stopped, there are still people with the disease there, which means there is a tremendously long incubation period for it.

This is a concern, he said, noting that 170 people died from eating contaminated meat thought to be related to prion diseases in Great Britain.

“There may be more. What if these diseases affecting people could incubate for 40-plus years? Research hasn’t proven a connection, but it is very important to do more research to find out.”

Alberta is on the forefront of prion research, said Ingram, because of its problems with mad cow disease. In 2005 the province set up the $35 million Prion Research Institute in Edmonton to coordinate studies into human and animal prion diseases. Chronic wasting disease in deer and elk, which seems to be spreading, is also a concern.

Ingram, who has hosted Daily Planet since the program started on Discovery Channel in 1995, is the author of several bestselling books and the recipient of numerous awards.

He has a science degree in microbiology from the University of Alberta and a master’s degree from the University of Toronto as well as four honourary degrees. He became a member of the Order of Canada in 2009 “for his contributions in making science accessible to the public.”


Just Posted

WATCH: Red Deer’s Westerner Days kicks off to a smoking hot start

Thousands take in the food, entertainment, rides and more at Westerner Park

WATCH: 2018 Westerner Days Parade brings 1000s to downtown Red Deer

The parade begins five days of western fun and culture in Central Alberta

Innisfail RCMP seize eight dogs from hotel room following earlier arrest

Dogs were in distress and taken to an animal rescue organization

Westerner Days opens today

Lots to see and do for the whole family

RCMP Major Crimes South make arrest in Red Deer homicide investigation

Gabriel Juma We Agotic of Red Deer arrested in Calgary

WATCH: Tune into What’s Up Wednesday

An overview of the week’s news in Red Deer

Two charged near Sundre after dog, cat, horse and five lambs stolen

Witnesses give valuable information to police, stolen property recovered

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

Ontario police say attack on Muslim man was motivated by hate

Two men, aged 27 and 19, have been charged with assault in the incident

Price no guarantee for safety with horse riding helmets: new report

A Swedish insurance report reveals that many brands of equestrian helmets do not protect riders as well as they could.

Gord Bamford Charity Golf Classic launches into its second decade

The Gord Bamford Foundation is continuing to support youth supporting charities

VIDEO: Toronto Raptors send DeMar DeRozan to Spurs in colossal NBA trade

Toronto also sent Jakob Poeltl and 2019 first-round pick, gets Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green

Wetaskiwin man facing charges after allegedly impersonating war veteran

Wetaskiwin RCMP lay charges for unlawful use of military uniforms/certificates

Kitten OK after being rescued from underground pipe in B.C.

An adventurous feline has been rescued after getting trapped in an underground pipe in Kamloops, B.C.

Most Read