PRIONS-is there such a thing?

The topic was previously discussed under Cecil’s Virus column:
I’m going to pull up some addresses, back soon.

I haven’t read enough of Stanley Prusiner (his homepage is somewhere in to really shoot down any ideas. But there seem to be some missing pieces of information.
Reading that I started to think that since the medical problem of scrapies, mad cow disease, kuru etc. simply involves a conformational change in a protein, perhaps the explanation is simply a physical change. There is no evidence of replication. We know that different crystal forms, I think they are …?..forgot the word…can form from lots of chemicals depending on seed crystals and conditions.
Another article was kinder to Prusiner: but still leaves open the purely physical (non viral etc)explanation. What if simply exposing to stomach and enzymes converts this sturdy prion protein into the nasty form? How they survive to the brain is a bigger mystery.
try that for the second reference

If a prion fought a virus, which would win? What if the prion had a machete and the virus was a black belt in karate?

Moderator: I may have misjudged the Greatness appeal of the topic. Perhaps we could move this to general questions?

prions do not self-replicate. They are caused my a mutation in DNA and when that DNA is transcibed and translated THAT is when the Prion replicates.

Prions cause disease by simply building up and blocking the pathways of a cell.

What exactly is the prion, just the protein? Is there evidence of polysaccharides and other attached material?