Researchers identify potential new therapy approach for hepatitis C

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have found a new way to block infection from the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the liver that could lead to new therapies for those affected by this and other infectious diseases.

More than 170 million people worldwide suffer from , the disease caused by . The disease affects the liver and is one of the leading causes of liver cancer and around the world. HCV is spread by blood-to-blood contact and there is no vaccine to prevent it. Current treatments for the disease are only moderately effective and can cause serious side effects.

"As HCV infects a person, it needs fat droplets in the liver to form new ," says François Jean, Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Scientific Director of the Facility for Infectious Disease and Epidemic Research (FINDER) at UBC. "In the process, it causes fat to accumulate in the liver and ultimately leads to chronic dysfunction of the organ."

"HCV is constantly mutating, which makes it difficult to develop antiviral therapies that target the virus itself," says Jean. "So we decided to take a new approach."

Jean and his team developed an inhibitor that decreases the size of host fat droplets in liver cells and stops HCV from "taking residence," multiplying and infecting other cells.

"Our approach would essentially block the lifecycle of the virus so that it cannot spread and cause further damage to the liver," says Jean. The team's method is detailed in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

According to Jean, HCV is one of a number of viruses that require fat to replicate in the human body. This new approach to curbing the replication of HCV could translate into similar therapies for other related re-emerging viruses that can cause serious and life threatening infections in humans, such as dengue virus. Dengue is endemic in more than 100 countries, with approximately 2.5 billion people at risk of infection globally. In some countries, Dengue has become the leading cause of child mortality.

More information: PLoS Pathog 8(1): e1002468. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002468

Related Stories

New vaccine for hepatitis C virus

Jul 28, 2011

Murdoch University researchers have begun a study to develop a new and innovative vaccine for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Keeping hepatitis C virus at bay after a liver transplant

Oct 01, 2009

One of the most common reasons for needing a liver transplant is liver failure or liver cancer caused by liver cell infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV). However, in nearly all patients the new liver becomes infected with ...

Improved culture system for hepatitis C virus infection

Jul 16, 2008

A University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researcher has developed the first tissue culture of normal, human liver cells that can model infection with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and provide a realistic environment ...

Recommended for you

Sierra Leone, Liberia brace for new Ebola cases

5 hours ago

Two of the West African nations hardest hit by Ebola were bracing for new caseloads on Monday after trying to outflank the outbreak with a nationwide checkup and a large new clinic.

Reversing the effects of pulmonary fibrosis

6 hours ago

Yale University researchers are studying a potential new treatment that reverses the effects of pulmonary fibrosis, a respiratory disease in which scars develop in the lungs and severely hamper breathing.

Streets bustling after Sierra Leone shutdown ends

12 hours ago

Streets in Sierra Leone's capital bustled again Monday after an unprecedented nationwide shutdown during which officials said more than 1 million households were checked for Ebola patients and given information ...

User comments