Canadian Press (01.10.06) - Monday, January 23, 2006
In a new study, University of Saskatchewan researchers report
progress toward finding a vaccine that could prevent hepatitis
C and treat those already infected.
The research team took dendritic cells from mice, exposed the
cells to a protein in the hepatitis C virus, and treated them
with a chemical that provokes their immune response. When
returned to the body, the activated cells can "teach" other
cells to activate the response, said Dr. Sylvia van Drunen
Littel-van den Hurk, an author of the study and a senior
research scientist with the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases
Organization at the University of Saskatchewan.
Because mice are not susceptible to hepatitis C, the
researchers used another virus to simulate a hepatitis C
infection. Viral replication in the vaccinated mice was found
to be 100,000-fold less than in the nonvaccinated mice.
Reducing the viral load in patients already infected would
represent great progress, said van den Hurk. "You will reduce
the chances these people get cirrhosis and ultimately would
need a liver transplant," she said.
Ten different proteins are used in the vaccine. The team plans
to test five or six proteins as potential vaccines, both
individually and in combination, to see which can best reduce
or eliminate the virus.
The lab work necessary prior to human testing will take at
least five years, van den Hurk said.
The full report, "Dendritic Cells Pulsed with Hepatitis C
Virus NS3 Protein Induce Immune Responses and Protection from
Infection with Recombinant Vaccinia Virus Expressing NS3," was
published in the Journal of General Virology (2006;87:1-10).