Some of the most perplexing disorders in medicine are each now known to arise from the conformational instability of an underlying protein. The consequence is a continuum of pathologies with typically a change in fold leading to ordered aggregation and tissue deposition. The serpins provide a structural prototype for these pathologies and give a perspective on the assessment of current proposals as to the conformational basis of both Alzheimer's disease and the transmissible prion encephalopathies.
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