SAN ANTONIO — Researchers at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute discovered a new pathway that the Ebola virus enters cells and replicates in the body.

Dr. Olena Shtanko, a staff scientist at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, is part of a team that discovered the new process.

"If you know how the virus enters the cell, we can find a way to target the entry and, ultimately, block it," said Dr. Shtanko, who added that researchers already understand that the virus enters the human body through a process called macropinocytosis. "Imagine the surface of the cell and imagine the surface is just extending its arms around the virus, engulfing it in the cell, so the virus can be engulfed and start replicating.”

Her team discovered a new and second process happening at the cell's surface.

"It was very surprising to find that another mechanism, called autophagy, or self-eating, was involved in uptake of the virus in the cell surface," she explained. "The interplaying was suspected but that was not known and came as a huge surprise."

She said finding how to regulate these two processes coupled with a drug can help fight other diseases such as cancer or neurodegenerative disorders.

"It’s very important to understand the biology of this emerging virus because viruses aren't going anywhere. They're going to keep emerging. So, we have here at the facility, an expertise to study the viruses," Dr. Shtanko said.

The research was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. You can read more about it here.