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Scientists Find Protein Critical to Ebola's Spread

Scientists have isolated a critical protein exploited by the Ebola virus in its spread through the body, the New York Times reported on Monday (see GSN, Dec. 7, 2011).

The typically lethal virus did not affect biological cells without the protein, and its effect was limited in mice that had been genetically altered to produce less of the compound, according to findings published in the journal Nature.

The "astounding result" marked the initial use of DNA alteration to confer Ebola survivability to animal test subjects, said Judith White, a cell biology and virology specialist with the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

The research bolsters scientific knowledge of the agent's spread. In addition, it points to a possible avenue for the eventual creation of medical countermeasures against the potential bioterror agent, said White, who did not participate in the effort (Amanda Schaffer, New York Times, Jan. 16).

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