Olena Shtanko, Ph.D.

Staff Scientist I | Host Pathogen Interaction

Research Focus

Dr. Shtanko researches fundamental molecular processes used by Ebola and Marburg viruses to disseminate within the host to understand the extraordinary capacity of these pathogens to create disease and to design and test novel therapeutics.  Dr. Shtanko has over 14 years of conducting research on viruses.

 


Inside the Lab

An extensively trained specialist in researching BSL-4 pathogens, Dr. Shtanko has been developing primary cell assays able to replicate disease states to study interactions between viruses and host processes. One of areas of research focus is the role of autophagy, a catabolic process where cellular membranes serve as a source of vesicles whose role is to engulf cell contents for degradation. She found that the autophagy proteins are essential for infection of Ebola virus and related viruses by affecting macropinocytosis, a primary route of virus uptake into the cell. Dr. Shtanko is currently expanding the studies to understand how the pathway facilitates the spread of these viruses within the host.  

As a part of a collaborative effort with Southwest Research Institute, Dr. Shtanko is also involved in designing and testing therapies targeting specific host factors critical for disease progression and control. She is also using commercially available therapies to target host processes. As part of the BSL-4 research team, Dr. Shtanko is also involved in testing various therapies in animal models through collaborative effort or contracts.  

Main Technologies and Methods Used

  • Expansion, concentration, and characterization of virus stocks
  • Pseudotyping of viral vectors
  • Virus minigenome assays
  • Isolation and analysis of virus-like particles (VLPs)
  • siRNA and chemical compound screens
  • Identification and testing of chemical compounds blocking virus replication in cell culture and animal models
  • Human primary cell assays
  • Bright field and immunofluorescence (confocal and two-photon) microscopy, fluorescent reporter proteins
  • Scanning and negative staining electron microscopy
  • PCR, RT-PCR, qPCR
  • Immunoblotting