• Can Chromatography Help Cure Ebola?


Can Chromatography Help Cure Ebola?

Nov 05 2014

First discovered in 1976, the Ebola virus again reared its ugly, unwanted head late last year in the West African country of Guinea. Since then, it has caused the deaths of almost 5,000 people, making it the largest epidemic of the disease on record.

The deaths have until now been largely (though not exclusively) been confined to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. However, several cases have been reported in the United States, with a handful surfacing across Europe as well. Experts judge the UK to be fairly safe from the disease and well-equipped to deal with it in the case of an outbreak; nevertheless, global panic surrounding Ebola is rising.

A New Method of Funding Research

As governments, corporations and scientists across the globe scramble to look for an antidote to the deadly virus, they have still found themselves constrained by normal financial limitations. However, one facility in California has devised a novel way of finding the necessary economic muscle. Professor Erica Ollmann Saphire has spearheaded a crowdfunding campaign on behalf of Scripps Research Institute, raising over $100,000 in a little over two weeks.

The sum will go towards the purchase of a fast protein liquid chromatography (FPLC) machine, which can help analyse antibody samples at a greatly-increased rate. As things currently stand, there is something of a bottleneck in the analysis times of possible serums, since they take several hours to process and can only be done one at a time.

The new machine will eliminate this obstacle by analysing several different samples simultaneously, and can also be left to work unmonitored overnight. This will speed up the process significantly. As a result, 25 laboratories across seven different countries are sending their protein antibody samples to Scripps to take full advantage of its new technology.

Chromatography and Ebola

The process of chromatography will be a vital one in the search for a vaccine or cure for the Ebola virus. Back in 2012, the process was able to identify a cocktail of several different antibodies which was successful in curing primates infected with the disease. The research contributed to the development of the experimental drug ZMapp. Though the current outbreak came too soon for ZMapp to be tested on humans, the seriousness of the epidemic meant it was used experimentally, with inconclusive results. For more information about this drug, read this article: What is ZMapp?

Though chromatography is unlikely to cure Ebola single-handedly, it is an integral cog in the machine which will eventually overcome this horrible affliction.

Image Source: SEM of Ebola Virus by NIAID

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