All those who dislike their relatives take note, this may be the best use you have for them. A remote tribe in Papua New Guinea that ritualistically consumed the brains of deceased members has belatedly developed a mutation to protect its descendents from a disease that was killing around 2% of the population each year.
However, that’s how people in Papua New Guinea’s Fore tribe have managed to stave off the disease, scientists have discovered.
According to Metro, the Fore people of Papua New Guinea would routinely eat the brains of deceased relatives as a mark of respect, but the practice was endangering the population, leading some to become infected with Kuru – which literally translates as “shaking death”. It’s a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), and a relative of so-called “mad cow disease”.
However, research published in Nature explains how scientists have discovered a mutation in the Fore people that makes them resistant to the disease. In laboratory mice, those with the gene became immune to both Kuru and CJD. The gene also immunises against other neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) is a more common prion-based disorder scientists believe these findings could help open the door to possible breakthroughs in tackling dementia.
The discovery is also thought to give scientists an insight into the molecular causes and possible treatments of other prion-based diseases.