The Alberta government has decided it will spend C $38 million (US $31 million) on prion research in an effort to boost consumer confidence in beef and to contribute to possible solutions to the mad cow crisis.
The research will focus on how a type of protein called prions become misfolded, which impairs nerve function in the brain and can cause bovine spongiform (BSE) in cattle.
It will also study the genetics, diagnosis and treatment of prion diseases.
BSE is normally spread when cattle are fed meat and bone meal from infected animals.
The Alberta Prion Science Initiative will demonstrate to the province's trading partners that it is serious about mad cow disease, said Alan Hall, managing director of the Alberta Agricultural Research Institute. The research could lead to an accurate and affordable BSE test for live cattle, genetic treatments that could build cows' immunity and possibly contribute to efforts to fight other prion-related diseases such as Alzheimer's and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.