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 New flexible, transparent, wearable biopatch, improves cellular observation, drug delivery
12.11.2018 | Purdue University

nachricht Exosomes 'swarm' to protect against bacteria inhaled through the nose
12.11.2018 | Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary

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: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

Im Focus: Nanorobots propel through the eye

Scientists developed specially coated nanometer-sized vehicles that can be actively moved through dense tissue like the vitreous of the eye. So far, the transport of nano-vehicles has only been demonstrated in model systems or biological fluids, but not in real tissue. The work was published in the journal Science Advances and constitutes one step further towards nanorobots becoming minimally-invasive tools for precisely delivering medicine to where it is needed.

Researchers of the “Micro, Nano and Molecular Systems” Lab at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, together with an international...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Peptides, the “little brothers and sisters” of proteins

12.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Materials scientist creates fabric alternative to batteries for wearable devices

12.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

A two-atom quantum duet

12.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>