Researchers have discovered a new human protein that can fight Ebola virus.
Like other viruses, Ebola also invades the host’s cells and uses them to replicate, usurping cellular processes to build viral proteins, which eventually become new copies of the virus.
Researchers found that the human protein RBBP6 is capable of fighting Ebola, and could one day become an effective therapy to combat the deadly virus.
According to the study published 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.
In the study, the team from North-western University used mass spectrometry — a technique that identifies specific elements in a sample by mass — to search for interactions between human proteins and Ebola virus proteins.
They found strong evidence for an interaction between the Ebola virus protein VP30 and the human protein RBBP6, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.
“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,” said co-lead author Judd Hultquist, assistant professor of medicine in the division of infectious disease at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“What we envision is a small molecule drug that mimics this human protein and could be used in response to an Ebola virus outbreak,” he said.
Researchers said that a small molecule drug is the ultimate goal because these are able to enter cells more easily and, therefore, be more effective.
“If you take that peptide and put it into human cells, you can block Ebola virus infection,” Hultquist said.
He further said that “Conversely, when you remove the RBBP6 protein from human cells, Ebola virus replicates much faster.”
“This is a key interaction,” said Nevan Krogan, a senior author of the study and a professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).