In a study published in Cell, research at Northwestern University School of Medicine has involved scientists discovering a human protein that could be the key to eradicating the Ebola virus—opening the doors to possible drug therapies. The discovered protein is called RBBP6 and works by interfering with the Ebola virus replication inhibiting its survival.
"One of the scariest parts about the 2014 Ebola outbreak was that we had no treatments on hand; tens of thousands of people became sick and thousands of people died because we lacked a suitable treatment," Hultquist said. "What we envision is a small molecule drug that mimics this human protein and could be used in response to an Ebola virus outbreak."
Viruses develop proteins that evolve to develop even more advanced proteins that bypass the body’s immune defense system. Interestingly, human cells in turn also evolve new defense mechanisms against those viruses producing an evolutionary arms race with a therapeutic potential.
"It wasn't until the outbreak of 2014 that other countries started seriously worrying about the potential for a larger epidemic," Hultquist said. "It's no longer going to be a local problem that people can afford to ignore. We should be taking a much more proactive stance against some of these neglected viruses and be studying them in real time -- so the next time an outbreak does occur, we're ready for it."
Ebola-fighting protein discovered in human cells.
Credit: Northwestern University
The research study is hoping to gear towards the development of a small drug molecule that is able to enter human cells more easily for treatment. Their studies using structural and computational analysis has narrowed their research to a small peptide consisting of 23 amino acids. The small peptide chain was found to be efficient enough to disrupt the Ebola virus.
"If you take that peptide and put it into human cells, you can block Ebola virus infection," Hultquist said. "Conversely, when you remove the RBBP6 protein from human cells, Ebola virus replicates much faster."
Source: Science Daily