Hepatitis C 'switch' offers target for new drug research

May 31, 2012

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/early/2012/05/04/nar.gks370.short

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies

July 28, 2015

A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines. ...

Can social isolation fuel epidemics?

July 21, 2015

Conventional wisdom has it that the more people stay within their own social groups and avoid others, the less likely it is small disease outbreaks turn into full-blown epidemics. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according ...

Lack of knowledge on animal disease leaves humans at risk

July 20, 2015

Researchers from the University of Sydney have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread ...

IBD genetically similar in Europeans and non-Europeans

July 20, 2015

The first genetic study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to include individuals from diverse populations has shown that the regions of the genome underlying the disease are consistent around the world. This study, conducted ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.