Biology Funs!

It’s such an icky disease.  Can somebody just make it go away, please?

A cure for a disease that can up to 90% of infected individuals?  A cure for a disease that makes people bleed out of every orifice in their body and can kill them 2-21 days after the onset of symptoms?  I mean sure, the potential Ebolavirus cure has only been demonstrated in animal models, and there’s no real market for an Ebolavirus vaccine (which doesn’t offer a lot of financial payoff for development by private companies), but…

Oh wait, I’m sorry, did you say EBOLA CURE?   That’s wicked cool biology!

From a report in the Vancouver Sun by Chad Skelton:

At a high-security military lab at Fort Detrick, Md., [Dr. Thomas] Geisbert infected several rhesus monkeys with a high dose of the Zaire strain of Ebola, one of the deadliest and fastest-replicating forms of the virus.  Then, over the next seven days, four monkeys were given a single daily injection of the drug…by Day 10 of the study, the two “control monkeys” who hadn’t been given the drug were already dead, and the four treated monkeys were perfectly fine.  Among a second test group, given only four injections, two of three monkeys survived.

Wow!  I won’t bore you with all of the molecular biology, but if you’re interested, Wikipedia has a decent mid-level explanation of Ebola’s pathogenesis, transmission, signs and symptoms, treatment, prognosis, etc.

The original article by Dr. Geisbert can be found at under the very user-friendly title Postexposure protection of non-human primates against a lethal Ebola virus challenge with RNA interference: a proof-of-concept study.  Or just go to and search for “Ebola”.  You have to sign up for a free registration, but it’s quick and they don’t ask for a lot of personal info.  It’s worth muddling through the medical-ese if you want to know about the study methods, or about the science driving the potential cure.  I mean, who doesn’t want to read about small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and stable nucleic acid-lipid particles (SNALPs).  You know you do, you big nerd!

Right now it sounds like the most important reason for having an Ebola cure would be in the case of a biological attack using the virus.  Because naturally-occuring Ebola is rare, there aren’t any immediately apparent financial incentives for a private development company to invest in the necessary R&D and clinical studies.  The funding for Geisbert’s study comes from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a “Combat Support Agency for countering weapons of mass destruction” run out of the US Department of Defense.


On to a couple of more local and more macro biology funs:

Pretty spider web found outdoors in Chaska, MN:


My friend found this skull in the alley behind her South Minneapolis home.  Is it a bird – crow or raven?  The bone looks porous like bird bones and the jaw portion has got to be some sort of beak, wouldn’t you think?  We do have a lot of big black birds in this area…

Biology Funs!
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