hero image

Scientists conducted an in-cell study to understand how the deadly Ebola virus affects the cells, particularly the virus’s impact on the body’s immune system.

The researchers wanted to understand the mechanism that the ebola virus uses to take advantage of the cell’s immune response to facilitate its own survival. They found that the virus deactivates genes responsible for antiviral defense. The virus also activates some genes that allow it to hijack the cells replicating mechanisms.

The Ebola virus research was a collaborative effort between researchers from Stanford University, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), MIT, Havard, the Broad Institute of MIT, and other institutes. The researchers studied around 1,000 single immune cells obtained from rhesus monkeys infected with the Ebola virus. They sampled the cells at various developmental stages of the virus and they also observed protein activity and gene expression in the cells.

Why the single-cell study is an important milestone

The researchers were excited about the study because it was the first-ever study to focus on single-cell sequencing on cells that have contracted a BSL-4 level pathogen. They used Seq-Well, a low-cost and portable technology used to sequence single-cell RNA. The scientists observed in the early infection stages that uncommon immature monocytes replaced the conventional monocyte subsets.

The immature monocytes were not as able to present foreign bodies to the immune system. They also found that the virus downregulated most of the genes that play a role in “class II” antigen presentation within the cells. They are the same genes that increase antibody production and trigger helper T cell activation.

The researchers also evaluated cells that have higher viral content and found that the virus replicated itself in the cells. It also blocked interferon production thus disabling the immune system’s ability to activate spiral responses. The recent study is the most comprehensive research that researchers have conducted so far on the ebola virus. Previous studies focused on understanding the virus’s negative impact on the immune system.

The latest study provides scientists with more data that lets them understand the entire Ebola virus process at a deep level. It also allows them to understand how the immune system behaves during an Ebola virus infection. The information may also be extremely useful in developing potential therapies.