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 Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University

nachricht The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute

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: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>