Research shows potential insights for Ebola therapies

A study published by Cell Press in the Biophysical Journal on Tuesday showed that viral protein 40, the most common protein of the Ebola virus, allows the virus to leave host cells and spread its infection to other cells.

The Ebola virus is one of the most deadly infections in the world, killing upwards of 90 percent of those who are infected. The virus starts with sudden influenza-like symptoms, then escalates and begins effecting more parts of the body until multiple organs shut down.

The new research, which illuminates the VP40 protein, shows that there is potential for treating the virus by focusing on this protein.

"Little research is available on how the Ebola virus buds from the plasma membrane of human cells," Robert Stahelin of Indiana University School of Medicine, said. "By shedding light on this process, our study will help us to identify potential drug candidates that could interfere with this step in the viral life cycle."

The findings showed that VP40 penetrated more than halfway into one layer of vesicles and caused the vesicle membranes to bend in the shape of the Ebola virus.

"Currently, we are trying to find small molecules that can inhibit VP40 interactions with the plasma membrane," Stahelin says. "This effort could lead to the discovery of potential drug candidates that could form the basis of much-needed therapies for this deadly virus."