Hepatitis C 'switch' offers target for new drug research

Scientists have discovered a 'switch' in the Hepatitis C virus which could be used as a target for new kinds of drug treatment.

Hepatitis C affects more than 170 million people worldwide, but current combination treatment is only effective against a limited range of this naturally highly variable virus.

However, according to new research by the University of Warwick, the newly discovered SL9266 'switch' is very highly conserved and present in all Hepatitis C viruses, meaning this offers a good starting point for further research into an across-the-board treatment.

This region represents a vulnerable spot for attacking and clearing the virus from the body as it controls a critical event in the earliest stages of the virus lifecycle.

It seems the switch modulates the mutually incompatible translation and replication processes that must occur for the virus to spread inside the body.

University of Warwick scientists at the School of Life Sciences and their collaborators in the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh are now working with chemists to develop custom-designed drugs that the switch and lock it in the 'off' position.

By locking the virus into a translation-only phase it cannot initiate replication, a process critical for infecting other cells in the liver.

The to the initially infected cell would contribute to the clearance of the virus from the body.

Despite the variability of the , the mechanism and function of this 'switch' is thought to be highly conserved, providing a means of targeting all Hepatitis C viruses.

Professor David Evans of the University of Warwick said: " C is a growing concern worldwide and is set to place a massive demand on the organ transplant system.

"We are already at the stage in many countries where the main need for is due to caused by the .

"Current medication is not effective in all cases, that's why it's vital that we continue to build on this early-stage research to focus drug development work on treatment which works across all genotypes."

The research, funded by the UK Medical Research Council, is published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research.

The study is entitled A twist in the tail: SHAPE mapping of long-range interactions and structural rearrangements of RNA elements involved in HCV replication.

It is co-authored by Andrew Tuplin, Madeleine Struthers and David Evans of the University of Warwick and Peter Simmonds of the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh.

More information: nar.oxfordjournals.org/content… /04/nar.gks370.short

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hepatitis C virus blocks 'superinfection'

Apr 05, 2007

There’s infection and then there’s superinfection – when a cell already infected by a virus gets a second viral infection. But some viruses don’t like to share their cells. New research from Rockefeller University ...

Possible hepatitis C vaccine

Sep 05, 2007

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infects up to 500,000 people in the UK alone, many of the infections going undiagnosed. It is the single biggest cause of people requiring a liver transplant in Britain. Now, in a collaborative effort ...

Recommended for you

Aid group: No need to isolate staff treating Ebola

10 minutes ago

Doctors Without Borders insisted Friday, after one of its doctors who worked in Guinea came down with Ebola in New York, that quarantines of health workers returning from the hot zone are not necessary when ...

New York on alert over first Ebola case

19 minutes ago

New York went on alert Friday as authorities sought to calm fears among the city's 8.4 million residents after a doctor tested positive for Ebola.

Volunteer guidelines for clinicians in the Ebola epidemic

1 hour ago

Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness Journal has released a novel, informative article that speaks to volunteers within the Ebola epidemic. The article, contributed by a consortium of Boston-based hospitals, is ent ...

US lawmaker: New case raises questions on Ebola

1 hour ago

The new case of Ebola diagnosed in New York City has raised "even more questions about procedures in treating patients and risks to Americans," a Republican committee chairman said Friday.

User comments