(Internet / TV) 07/07/06 A technique for identifying abnormal proteins in hamsters may lead to the first human test for the fatal brain-wasting illness caused by mad cow disease, researchers said. Blood tests in hamsters with scrapie, a disease related to mad cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, were able to detect signs of infection before symptoms appear, according to a study in today's issue of the journal Science. The study is a step toward diagnosing the human version, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, early enough to prevent its spread, according to the study. “This can prevent further transmission of the disease,'' said Claudio Soto, professor of neurology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, a co-author of the study.