Ebola-fighting protein discovered in human cells

Researchers have discovered a human protein that helps fight the Ebola virus and could one day lead to an effective therapy against the deadly disease, according to a new study from Northwestern University, Georgia State University, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the Gladstone Institutes published this past December, in the journal Cell.

 

The newly discovered ability of the human protein RBBP6 to interfere with Ebola virus replication suggests new ways to fight the infection. As viruses develop and evolve proteins to bypass the body’s immune defenses, human cells in turn develop defense mechanisms against those viruses — an evolutionary arms race that has been ongoing for millions of years. This particular defense mechanism has therapeutic potential, said co-lead author Judd Hultquist, assistant professor of medicine in the division of infectious disease at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who conducted the research while he was at Gladstone Institutes.

 

“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.”

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