Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting over 70 million people across the world. It increases the risk of developing severe liver cancer or cirrhosis condition. Apparently, there is no vaccine existing to curb the infection. The reason is HCV infects only certain species such as Humans & Chimpanzees. This makes the study of HCV difficult in the laboratory.
In light of this, many scientists were working ahead to understand the underlying factors involved in the replication of the Hepatitis C virus. A recent study done by the researchers at Princeton University found that certain difference in liver cell proteins can impact HCV replication in mice & humans. The research is published in the journal of eLife.
The researchers were focussed on understanding the requirements of the virus to replicate in humans. So that an animal model can be developed to help study the virus and develop a vaccine against it.
The Science Behind It
Scientist genetically engineered mice, which once infected with HCV are able to produce human proteins. These human proteins allow the virus to enter into the liver cells & infect them causing liver cancer or cirrhosis. However, in the case of mice the immune system has to be made compromised to allow the HCV to replicate, otherwise, it won’t.
Scientist focussed themselves to a protein called cyclophilin A. This protein is important in human for HCV to multiply & replicate within the liver cells. It was found that the mouse version of this protein is very less efficient in promoting the replication of the virus in comparison to the human cyclophilin A.
Thus, scientist mutated the mouse version of cyclophilin A to resemble more like human cyclophilin A. These changes improved the viral replication in mouse at levels similar to human cyclophilin A. When this humanized version of protein was inserted into liver cancer cells, which normally does not allow HCV replication, there was a rise in HCV replication.
Additionally, the researchers also tried to check the replication response with other mutant proteins involved in HCV replication. It was found that cyclophilin A is majorly responsible for viral replication. However, the intensity of replication was not the same as in humans. This indicated that there are other protein factors which play a crucial role in viral replication within the liver cells.
“Identifying these factors will be the subject of our future work, which we hope will ultimately lead to an immunocompetent mouse model for studying HCV and developing an effective vaccine,” said Ploss, the author.
The study is very interesting & important that can help in the future to curb the menace of the Hepatitis C virus. The research paves the way for the future development of animal models to produce a vaccine for the disease. Understanding the role of cyclophilin A promoting viral replication put forward many opportunities for researcher to dissect the underlying mechanism of cyclophilin A-dependent HCV infection.