Ebola study will monitor viral entry into cells, with focus on drug delivery

UB's Amy Jacobs

Ebola is a deadly, communicable infection that elicited a scare just last year as cases ramped up in West Africa, an outbreak that is currently ongoing.

The National Science Foundation is paying special attention to the virus, and researchers from the University at Buffalo in New York won an award--for an unspecified amount--from the foundation to further study the way the virus enters cells, potentially shedding light on delivery methods for treatment of the infection. The research could also help improve treatments for virus-based diseases such as influenza, HIV, dengue fever and MERS, according to the university.

Lead researcher Amy Jacobs will monitor inert ebolavirus to learn how small molecules bind to proteins on the virus' surface and allow it into a cell. Thus, they can discover more about how the virus interacts with the cells, and potentially how to deliver treatments more efficiently into an infected cell.

"There hasn't been a lot of research on Ebola," Jacobs said in a statement. "After this outbreak, the governmental agencies decided they should start putting some time into Ebola. We really didn't know very much about how it gets into the cell, and we didn't know much about the surface proteins and receptors."

The work Jacobs and her team conduct is called "entry research," which specifically studies how viruses enter cells and how they can ultimately be stopped to control the infection.

"Entry research is especially fun because you can do a lot without it being dangerous," Jacobs said. "It's exciting to think about those entry methods as potential drug delivery mechanisms as well, since you can put anything inside."

- here's the UB release