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Pathology

Prion protein
Winter 2017

Unraveling a curious killer

In the ghoulish world of infectious disease agents, prions might well be the zombies. Unlike bacteria and viruses, prions have no DNA, yet still manage to replicate. Nearly indestructible themselves, the tiny agents slowly ravage the brains of their victims in an infection that is always fatal.

Prions were the culprit behind the mad cow disease outbreak in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And today, they’re driving the epidemic of chronic wasting disease (CWD) spreading rapidly through deer and elk across North America.

For nearly thirty years, Don Knowles ’88 PhD has bravely investigated these strange and elusive infectious particles. When asked if he … » More …

Winter 2015

Emerging disease: A case study

Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at WSU

1999

Hundreds of people, cats, dogs, porpoises, birds, and other animals on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, fell victim to what was diagnosed as a rare fungal infection called Cryptococcus gattii. Though physicians and veterinarians were familiar with the more common Cryptococcus neoformans, C. gattii was considered a tropical disease found only in places like Australia.

Upon deeper investigation, B.C. health officials were alarmed to discover that C. gattii had established itself in the native trees and soil—and was especially prevalent in decaying wood. Epidemiologists speculate that climate change and warmer summers helped create favorable habitat for the … » More …

Nancy Gillett
Spring 2014

Nancy Gillett ’78—The business of science

When pathologist and researcher Nancy Gillett ’78 decided to leave Genentech, a major medical biotechnology firm, for a small contract research company, her colleagues called it professional suicide. But Gillett had made life-altering career decisions before, moving from being a practicing veterinarian to a research scientist and then to a top-level business executive overseeing 5,000 people at 13 sites around the world.

Gillett’s significant success as a researcher and executive has led to accolades, including the 2013 Regents’ Distinguished Alumna Award from Washington State University. Her path to the University’s highest honor started as the young student from Las Vegas, Nevada, came to WSU to … » More …