Scientists from the US National Institutes of health (NIH)have identified a part of the virus that may be responsible for the internal bleeding caused by the Ebola virus which leads to most deaths.
Their research identified a viral protein that destroys endothelial cells(i.e.the cells that line the blood vessels walls.) By being able to attack this protein new drugs and vaccines can be designed thereby reducing or preventing the once known incurable and deadly virus.
Zhi-Yong Yang and Gary Nabel with their research team investigated a glycoprotein (GP), a sugar-containing molecule that sticks out from the surface of the Ebola virus. They found that a specific portion of the protein caused it to destroy human and monkey endothelial cells in a test tube.
The protein serves two functions: It targets Ebola to the endothelium, and once the infected cells have manufactured sufficient GP, it kills those cells leading to the toxic effects of the disease.
Nabel states: "We have been able to define the major Ebola virus gene that kills cells, an have provided a molecular target for potential new antiviral drugs and vaccines."