Researchers have made a key breakthrough in the quest to discover a vaccine or therapy to cure the deadly ebola virus. A team of scientists at the University of Wisconsin in Madison knew that extracting the VP30 gene--one in a string of eight genes--shuts down its ability to replicate in a host cell. By adding monkey kidney cells that produced the protein needed for replication--essential for research--they allowed replication while disarming the virus, leaving it incapable of making anyone ill. Now researchers can make a benign strain of the virus that can be closely studied at any of a number of research labs. Until now, ebola research has been limited to BSL4-level labs in which researchers are required to adhere to strict safety procedures--including wearing a biosafety suit with its own air supply. Ebola kills up to 80 percent of the people it infects.
"We wanted to make biologically contained Ebola virus," said Yoshihiro Kawaoka. "The altered virus does not grow in any normal cells. This system can be used for drug screening and for vaccine production."
- read the report from the BBC