Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Study identifies human genes required for hepatitis C viral replication

Targeting factors in patients, rather than the virus, could avoid development of resistance

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers are investigating a new way to block reproduction of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) – targeting not the virus itself but the human genes the virus exploits in its life cycle. In the March 19 Cell Host & Microbe, they report finding nearly 100 genes that support the replication of HCV and show that blocking several of them can suppress viral replication in cultured cells.

"We identified a large number of genes that have not been previously known to be involved in hepatitis C replication," says Raymond Chung, MD, director of Hepatology in the MGH Gastrointestinal Unit, the study's senior author.

Lead author Andrew Tai, MD, PhD, also of the MGH Gastrointestinal Unit, adds, "We may be a few years away from developing therapies based on these findings, but this study is a proof of principle that targeting host factors is a viable therapeutic strategy."

Usually spread by blood-to-blood contact, HCV infection becomes chronic in 70 to 80 percent of patients, and long-term infection can lead to liver failure or liver cancer. Today HCV-related liver disease is the most common diagnosis underlying the need for liver transplantation. HCV infection is usually treated with a six- to eleven-month regimen combining peginterferon and the antiviral drug ribavirin, but treatment is not successful in many patients and has serious side effects some cannot tolerate. Other therapies targeting viral enzymes are being developed, but there is concern that HCV's ability to mutate rapidly would lead to the emergence of resistant strains, so strategies directed against factors in the infected host rather than the virus may offer a complementary approach.

These strategies are being explored in a number of diseases – including influenza, West Nile virus and HIV – and previous studies have scanned a limited number of human genes for host cofactors of HCV infection. For the current study the researchers examined whether blocking each of the approximately 21,000 predicted messenger RNA transcripts in the human genome with small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) had any effect on HCV replication. Chung notes that this approach does not rely on any prior assumptions about gene function and can thereby identify genes not previously suspected of involvement.

The siRNA scan found 96 genes that appear to have a role in viral replication, and the research team studied several of them in greater detail. One gene codes for an enzyme called PI4KA, which is believed to be involved in the formation of membrane structures within the cell that may be the site of HCV replication. Another group of genes contribute to formation of the COPI coat that covers several types of cellular vesicles and is known to have a role in the replication of poliovirus. The researchers also focused on the gene for hepcidin, a liver protein that regulates iron absorption, since iron levels in the blood and liver rise in chronic HCV infection. They found that blocking each of these genes also blocked HCV replication, as did drugs that inhibit PI4KA and COPI, although the tested agents might not be suitable for therapeutic use.

"Now we need to work to uncover the molecular mechanisms by which these genes support HCV replication to get a better idea of which would be advantageous therapeutic targets," explains Chung, an associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Additional co-authors of the Cell Host & Microbe paper are Yair Benita, PhD, Sun-Suk Kim, MD, and Ramnik Xavier, MB,ChB, MGH Gastrointestinal Unit; and Naoya Sakamoto, MD, PhD,Tokyo Medical and Dental University. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Massachusetts Biomedical Research Corporation, the American Gastrointestinal Association and the American Liver Foundation.

Massachusetts General Hospital, established in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of more than $500 million and major research centers in AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, human genetics, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, systems biology, transplantation biology and photomedicine.

Sue McGreevey | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

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...

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

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Solid progress in carbon capture

27.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>