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Ebola Virus explained

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'Transformer' protein provides new insights into Ebola virus disease

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A new study reveals that a protein of the Ebola virus can transform into three distinct shapes, each with a separate function that is critical to the virus's survival. Each shape offers a potential target for developing drugs against Ebola virus disease, a hemorrhagic fever that kills up to 9 out of 10 infected patients in outbreaks such as the current one in West Africa.

At SLAC's Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) microbeam facility for crystallography, and other X-ray facilities, a team led by Erica Ollmann Saphire of The Scripps Research Institute analyzed the structure of VP40, a protein best known for its role in creating and releasing new copies of the virus from infected cells.

"The interesting thing about VP40 is that it does more than that," Saphire says. "We found that it is multifunctional, with several essential roles for the virus." The team reported its results in Cell.

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