Across the globe, two per cent of people suffer from the liver disease Hepatitis C. That’s more than 150 million people.
Chronic Hepatitis can lead to liver cirrhosis (permanent scarring of the organ) and carcinoma – a type of cancer.
Now researchers from Monash University may have unlocked a new way to treat the disease.
By studying how the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) hijacks communication systems in infected cells, they have uncovered potential new therapies that stop the virus replicating in cells.
The breakthrough comes in the form of a drug-like molecule that could be used on other infectious diseases.
The research team used a compound recently discovered by Harvard University investigator Professor Nathanael Gray to block the activity of one of the enzymes important in HCV replication.
“Nathanael sent us his new molecule, and we put it in our host cells, infected them with HCV and found that while the cells were fine, they didn’t support virus replication anymore,” said Dr Reza Haqshenas, lead author of the study.
The researchers then used gene silencing technology to determine which factors were important for HCV replication and therefore potential targets for anti-HCV compounds.
The study has provided a compelling “proof of concept”.
“The platform we have established can be adopted to identify new anti-infective compounds against any pathogen, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, that invade mammalian cells,” Monash Professor Christian Doerig.
“Importantly, fighting a pathogen by hitting an enzyme from the host cell is likely to slow the emergence of drug resistance, because the pathogen cannot easily escape through the selection of target mutations.”
The researchers will now extend their work to study the Zika virus and toxoplasmosis.
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