Ebola is deadly. It has struck humanity before and will strike again.
But this time around, the virus would face the most formidable force on the planet: the US army.
The battle field would be the confines of the human cells. And the ammunition, a patented double stranded RNA molecule (dsRNA) developed by Alnylam Pharmaceuticals in collaboration with the US Army.
This powerful weapon is designed to inhibit the virus from expressing genes that are responsible for causing systemic hemorrhage and multi-organ failure in infected subjects.
The dsRNA is designed to have a specific affinity towards an mRNA transcripts of these genes (e.g. VP35) that is encoded by the Ebola virus. When introduced into the cell, the dsRNA targets and degrades these mRNA transcripts. As a result, the genes responsible for the symptoms are prevented from being expressed.
The dsRNA includes two sequences that are complementary to each other. One of the sequences, called an anti-sense strand, is designed to be complementary to the mRNA sequence. This ensures that the dsRNA specifically targets the mRNA transcript and binds to it making it unavailable for expressing the problematic genes. The length of the complementary region on the anti-sense strand is limited to 30 nucleotides. While being effective against the virus, the dsRNA does not reduce either the lymphocyte or the platelet count and neither does it increase the cytokine levels. In other words, the collateral damage of this weapon is almost nil.
Bring it on Ebola!
Publication number: US 20160264972
Patent Title: Compositions and Methods for Inhibiting Expression of a Gene from the Ebola Virus
Publication date: 15 Sep 2016
Filing date: 13 Oct 2015
Inventors: Sina Bavari; Kelly Lyn Warfield; Pamela Tan; Anna Borodovsky; Tatiana Novobrantseva; Antonin de Fougerolles;
Original Assignee: The Government of the United States, as Represented by the Secretary of the Army