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Is the World Closer to an Ebola Vaccine?

Dr Karthik Chandran’s team of scientists have made a remarkable discovery that could cure the deadly Ebola disease

Updated
Lifestyle
2 min read
A microscopic view of the Ebola Virus (Photo: PTI)

Dr Karthik Chandran is leading a team of international researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the US Army Medical Research Institute to identify the molecular ‘lock’ that the deadly Ebola virus must pick to infect human cells.

In simple terms, this is what their big discovery establishes- if the path to the protein Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1) is blocked, the virus cannot infect or kill the victim. The study was conducted on mice and its developments and findings have been published in the journal mBio.

Dr Karthik Chandran’s team of scientists is the first to make a key discovery  in Ebola in 40 years  (Photo: http://www.einstein.yu.edu)
Dr Karthik Chandran’s team of scientists is the first to make a key discovery in Ebola in 40 years (Photo: http://www.einstein.yu.edu)

I have been working on Ebola since 2003. The thing that fascinated me about Ebola is how this virus appears from nowhere, kills a bunch of people and then disappears without a trace. Our study reveals NPC1 to be an Achilles heel for the Ebola virus infection.

–Dr Karthik Chandran, Lead Scientist, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

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But, All This Wasn’t Easy

The protein in question has a crucial role to play in the human body. It moves cholesterol, so removing or disabling it completely, might lead to other illnesses.

Also, people who lack NPC1 due to genetic mutations might develop a lethal neurodegenerative disorder called the Niemann-Pick disease, that fatally clogs up cells with cholesterol. But, scientists are hoping that they’ll be able to work around this problem since cholesterol transport will only be stopped temporarily for this treatment.

But this is no mean achievement. The fact that there has been absolutely no progress in the treatment of Ebola in the last four decades, a successful animal trial is a giant leap. If the same findings are mimicked in human clinical trials, a complete cure for one of the deadliest diseases in the world would be a reality in the next two years.

The current Ebola outbreak in Africa has killed 11,000 people (Photo: iStock)
The current Ebola outbreak in Africa has killed 11,000 people (Photo: iStock)

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