Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Landmark FSU study of hepatitis C virus solves mystery that has stymied quest for cure


The hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects more than 170 million people worldwide and leads to both acute and chronic liver diseases. Since its discovery several decades ago, the insidious human pathogen has stymied the quest for anti-viral therapies by refusing to reproduce in test tubes for more than a few hours or days, denying scientists an efficient virus production and infection system for experimental research.

Now, in a landmark study by Florida State University biologists that could bolster the development of anti-viral therapies for HCV –– as well as for related RNA viruses such as West Nile and influenza –– Assistant Professor Hengli Tang and doctoral student/co-author Heather B. Nelson have discovered the molecular mechanism that inhibits HCV replication in vitro after its host cells become crowded and stopped dividing.

What’s more, their groundbreaking discovery came about as a result of the new test they developed that can quickly and easily monitor HCV replication in the laboratory.

Finally, after Tang and Nelson uncovered the reason for suppression of the virus in cell culture –– in a nutshell: not enough nucleotide molecules, the building blocks of HCV –– they then adapted an existing cell technology to remedy the problem right in the test tube.

The Tang-Nelson study and a description of the innovative technologies they devised to enable and track it will appear in the Feb. 8 edition of the Journal of Virology.

"Our findings could prove critical to research on HCV’s complex virus-host cell interactions and lead to better, targeted treatments," Tang said.

"Currently, any nucleotide starvation therapies, used primarily to treat cancer, can inhibit replication by depriving viral agents of their molecular building blocks. However, those therapies may impact healthy cells, as well, causing undesired side effects."

In the human liver, the parasitic HCV makes copies of its genetic material by hijacking nucleotides –– the little molecules produced by its dividing host cells. It is only in the liver that pools of nucleotides remain available to HCV in sufficient supply after the host cells reached confluence (stop dividing).

Not so in test tubes, say the FSU researchers.

To address the shortage of HCV building blocks in vitro, their unique adaptation of an existing cell technology enabled the introduction of nucleoside molecules to a culture of liver cancer cells. The nucleosides then converted to the essential nucleotide molecules that Tang calls the missing link. In turn, the nucleotides generated in vitro replication of infectious HCV particles that continued even after host cell confluence –– as it does in the liver.

That’s not all. "Our new cell line also allows us to rapidly identify and isolate drug-resistant HCV mutants in vitro and to screen for anti-viral drug candidates," Tang said. "This will help researchers better study the mechanism of drug resistance, a big problem with this virus and others such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) that mutate quickly."

Underpinning everything, Tang says, is their novel, easy-to-use assay. It can track mutant strains of HCV in a week or less while other assays take weeks or months.

"Our assay, for which FSU has filed a provisional patent application, employs a new reporter cell line, which means the cells give out a detectable signal when certain events happen inside them," said Tang. "In this case, they emit a green fluorescence whenever HVC is replicating. The fluorescence is tracked in the cell culture through a technique known as flow cytometry, which employs a machine equipped with a laser and lights that follows the green to find the virus."

Between earning his Ph.D. at the University of California-San Diego in 1998 and joining FSU’s biological science faculty in 2004, Tang served as a lead researcher in an industry setting, seeking targeted anti-viral therapies primarily for HIV.

"I find it particularly rewarding to play a part in research that may actually help somebody soon," he said.

Hengli Tang | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

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: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>