Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Hepatitis C virus channels efforts into cell survival

Researchers at the University of Leeds have discovered a previously unknown mechanism that allows the hepatitis C virus (HCV) to remain in the body for decades.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that the virus blocks the actions of a specific ion channel in the cell membrane that would usually trigger apoptosis - the cell's self-destruct programme - and in doing so, has evolved another way of protecting itself from being eliminated from the body.

Apoptosis occurs naturally in the body to allow the removal of unhealthy cells or the replacement of worn-out cells. One of the ways in which apoptosis can be triggered in a cell is to reduce its potassium levels. This can happen when the cell is exposed to oxidative stress that activates a specific ion channel (which acts as a pore in the cell membrane) causing it to open and allow out potassium ions.

However, the research team has discovered that a protein made by HCV, known as NS5A, is able to block the activation of this ion channel in liver cells, enabling these cells to resist cell death for longer.

"For a virus to persist in the body over a long time, it has to find a way of manipulating the host cell so that it becomes resistant to apoptosis," says lead researcher Professor Mark Harris of the University's Faculty of Biological Sciences. "We know of many ways that viruses have evolved to do this, but this is the first observation of a virus preventing cell death by manipulating an ion channel."

HCV affects some 170 million people globally and only around half of these will respond to treatment. Many sufferers will be asymptomatic – some for twenty or even thirty years – but the virus remains in the liver, and its long-tem damage can ultimately cause cirrhosis or cancer.

"Cells in the liver are often exposed to high levels of oxidative, and other, stresses as they work to detoxify the blood of foreign compounds such as drugs and alcohol, and to remove chemicals produced by our own bodies," says Professor Harris. "In addition, the virus itself causes oxidative stress as it replicates in the cells. The research shows that the virus has evolved another way of protecting itself from this natural process, and to avoid elimination from the body for longer."

The research team believes that continued research may offer a potential target for drug development, perhaps through combination therapy.

"We need to find out exactly how the blocking action works, but it's possible that two drugs could be coupled together, one to prevent the virus from blocking the ion channel and another to induce stress to force apoptosis," says Professor Harris.

"It's a very exciting discovery, and ideally we'd like to expand our investigations to see whether other viruses that cause long term or chronic infections – such as HIV – have evolved the same ability."

The research was funded by the Medical Research Council.

Clare Elsley | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>