Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Genes show the way to better treatment of hepatitis A

23.12.2014

One of the most common causes of hepatitis A (formerly known as infectious hepatitis) is a hepatitis C virus infection in the liver. The disease can be treated medically, but not all patients are cured by the treatment currently available. New research shows that the response to medical treatment depends on genetic factors.

Our best defence against viral infections is the immune system. However, humans are endowed differently in terms of our immune defence. Recent research has shown how our genetic make-up heavily influences our ability to combat viral infections. Surprisingly, it now turns out that some of the genes that are good for the immune system can at the same time impede medical treatment.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection causes chronic inflammation of the liver, which is slowly broken down and in some cases the disease can progress to liver cancer. It is possible to treat the disease with antiviral medicine, but patients react differently to the treatment and not all of them recover.

An international research group led by scientists at Aarhus University, Denmark, has now found out why some patients respond to the treatment, while others do not. The result of the treatment is determined to a very great extent by the individual patient's genetic heritage (genome). To the great surprise of the researchers, it turns out that variations in our genes for the interferon lambda 4 protein (IFNL4) determine whether we respond well or poorly to treatment.

"Our research shows that genetic mutations that reduce the activity of the interferon lambda 4 protein provide patients with a considerably better chance of recovering from the infection. Or to put it another way, a functional interferon lambda 4 protein is harmful during an infection with HCV. This is paradoxical because IFNL4 is an essential part of our immune defence against viral infections, and should therefore have a positive effect," says Associate Professor Rune Hartmann, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University.

Paradox in the laboratory

IFNL4 is a member of the family of proteins called interferons (named after their ability to interfere with viruses), which are an essential part of our immune defence against viral infections. They work by activating a cellular programme that combats viral infections and thereby makes the cells resistant to the virus.

The research group's studies show that IFNL4 has a powerful antiviral activity in the laboratory, and behaves in every way like any other member of the interferon family. Even though IFNL4 is antiviral in the laboratory, the research also clearly shows that it has the opposite effect in patients. This is where the paradox arises. The researchers have a possible explanation of why this happens.

"Our hypothesis is that interferon lambda 4 confuses other parts of the immune system and that HCV is able to exploit this," says PhD student Ewa Terczynska-Dyla, who also took part in the research project.

Possibility of better treatment

The research results from Aarhus University indicate that it is possible to develop new treatments for hepatitis that match the individual patient's genome. This could be medicine specifically targeting IFNL4, but could also include modifying the normal treatment, depending on whether the patients have fully functional IFNL4 genes, or have a version with either reduced activity or no activity at all.

The latter group of patients is by far the biggest in Denmark, and they do not require anywhere near as long a period of treatment to recover. This is good for both the patients (because they avoid unnecessary treatment) and the public medical expenses (because HCV medicine is very expensive).

The researchers will now carry out further work to understand the fundamental mechanisms that make the interferon lambda genes so important for our ability to combat hepatitis caused by HCV.

The results will be published in the journal Nature Communications 23 December 2014.

For more information, please contact

Associate Professor Rune Hartmann
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Aarhus University, Denmark
+45 2899 2578
rh@mbg.au.dk

PhD student Ewa Terczynska-Dyla
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Aarhus University, Denmark
+45 8715 6638
ewat@mbg.au.dk

Rune Hartmann | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.au.dk

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Malaria Already Endemic in the Mediterranean by the Roman Period
27.07.2017 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Serious children’s infections also spreading in Switzerland
26.07.2017 | Universitätsspital Bern

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses

Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.

Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Programming cells with computer-like logic

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Identified the component that allows a lethal bacteria to spread resistance to antibiotics

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Malaria Already Endemic in the Mediterranean by the Roman Period

27.07.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>