Monday, 23 October 2023, 13:26
The University of Barcelona is investigating the death of a Spanish biochemist who died last year after suffering symptoms compatible with the neurodegenerative Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).
According to El País, the educational institution opened an internal investigation three months ago to find out the origin of thousands of unauthorised samples, including some infectious ones, that were found in its laboratory. The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (Ibidell) and the public consortium Ciber, where the researcher also worked, have joined the investigation.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is a form of brain damage that leads to a rapid decline in movement and loss of mental function. It is caused by a type of protein called a prion, which causes normal proteins to fold abnormally, affecting the ability of other proteins to function, according to information from the Mayo Clinic website. Early symptoms are lack of muscle coordination, and memory loss and confusion which occur in other dementias, such as Alzheimer's disease.
The 45-year-old scientist allegedly kept thousands of unauthorised samples from people and animals in a secret drawer. He started working in the lab in January 2018 as a senior researcher with his own group and managed to identify, together with his wife, who joined the same lab, characteristic substances in cerebrospinal fluid that are useful in the diagnosis of rapid dementia. But he asked to be discharged in November 2020 after he began to feel unwell. As soon as it became aware of the situation, the University of Barcelona decreed the immediate closure and decontamination of laboratory 4141 at the Faculty of Medicine, in Llobregat Hospital.
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