Scientists Find Chances Of Fighting Ebola May Hinge On Genetics
New research from a level four lab in Montana done on Ebola-infected mice indicates that genetics might play an enormous role in surviving Ebola. The research was reported in the journal Science. Systems biologists and virologists Michael Katze and Angela Rasmussen led the research. The scientists now believe that some people may have genes that initiate reactions inside their bodies that limit the severity of Ebola infection. In October, the Inquisitr reported that scientists believe that many people may be immune to Ebola.
“There is limited evidence from past outbreaks that suggests there probably are quite a few people who get exposed, who get infected, without ever developing symptoms and without ever developing illness, but they develop immunity,” researcher Lauren Ancel Meyers explained, discussing the topic of Ebola immunity. The new report from Science appears to substantiate the idea that some people are naturally immune. The new research is a collaborative effort between scientists at National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Washington in Seattle.
The researchers found that the death rates in the Ebola-infected mice appeared to coincide with specific genetic patterns. First, the scientists used mice that had been developed to study the genetics involved in the severity of influenza and “used them to breed strains that replicate the main features of human Ebola hemorrhagic fever,” according to Medical News Today.
The researchers discovered that 19 percent of the Ebola-infected mice were not severely affected by Ebola and, of this group, all survived and suffered no lasting effects. Another 11 percent of the Ebola-infected mice showed partial resistance to the Ebola virus, and less than half of this second group died. The remaining 70 percents of the mice had severe symptoms of their Ebola-infection. Of this 70 percent, over half of them died.
The mice with the most severe reactions that died had a genetic make-up that allowed the Ebola virus to inflame blood vessels and promote cellular death. The mice that fared well in the experiment had a a genetic make-up where Ebola exposure activated genes that control the repair of blood vessels and encouraged immune cell production.
A press release from the University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine stated, “While acknowledging that recent Ebola survivors may have had immunity to this or a related virus that saved them during this epidemic, Katze said, ‘Our data suggest that genetic factors play a significant role in disease outcome.’”
The researchers also found that there could be something specific about the livers in the mice that survived Ebola with less severe symptoms. They question whether specialized liver cells in these mice might have limited the Ebola virus replication, again indicating a possible genetic susceptibility to damage from the virus.