Researchers identify vulnerabilities of the Ebola virus

Ebola virus cells can no longer replicate or infect hosts when a certain protein is disabled, according to a study recently published in Cell Host and Microbe.

Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital discovered that VP35, a protein in the Ebola virus, is critical to deactivating the human immune system. The team found that when VP35 interacts with PACT, a human cellular protein, PACT is unable to activate the immune system as the Ebola virus spreads through the body.

"Ebola viruses are extremely lethal, and are a great threat to human health as a bioweapon," Christopher Basler, an associate professor of microbiology at Mount Sinai, said. "Currently, there is no approved vaccine or treatment. Our findings will hopefully pave the way for future antiviral treatments."

Basler's team collaborated with researchers at the University of Texas in the development of Ebola virus cells with mutated version of VP35 that disabled the viral protein's ability to interact with PACT. The mutated VP35 Ebola virus cells were prevented from replicating in healthy human cells.

The researchers also overexpressed PACT in healthy cells and infected them with Ebola virus cells. The team found that overexpressing PACT also inhibited the replication of the virus.

Basler said that he and his team hope to develop drugs to either disrupt the interaction of VP35 with PACT or overexpress PACT.

The Ebola virus is able to cause severe disease in humans because it can deactivate the innate immune system.