WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., April 6 (UPI) -- Wake Forest University scientists have made a surprising discovery about a powerful virus -- a discovery that may lead to better vaccines and medications.
The biochemists have identified a protein that plays an important role in the ability of the vesicular stomatitis virus to invade healthy cells and reproduce.
Although VSV infects animals, it is not a human pathogen. Nevertheless, scientists study it because of its similarity to the Ebola, rabies and Marburg hemorrhagic fever viruses.
"VSV is a good model of a variety of other viruses," said John Connor, an assistant professor of biochemistry. "Our research has given us a better understanding of how viruses like these are able to do the nasty things they do."
Normally, VSV is extremely powerful, with the ability to shut down a cell's system for making proteins. VSV then controls the cell's protein-making machinery, making its own proteins so it can replicate and spread. The scientists were able to weaken that power by altering the matrix protein, so VSV cannot make as much protein and does not reproduce.
The study is reported in the April issue of the Journal of Virology.