Genetic expression allows scientist to grow hepatitis C in lab
An estimated 185 people around the world have chronic hepatitis C infections. Since scientists first found the virus in the late 1980s, they have been searching for ways to grow the virus within their labs. This step is crucial to learning about the virus and creating efficient treatments.
"Being able to easily culture HCV in the lab has many important implications for basic science research," Charles M. Rice, from The Rockefeller University, said. "There is still much we don't understand about how the virus operates, and how it interacts with liver cells and the immune system.”
"Practically speaking, this means that if scientists want to study HCV from an infected patient, it's now possible to take a blood sample, inoculate the engineered cells, and grow that patient's form of the virus in the lab," Mohsan Saeed, the first author and a postdoc in Rice's laboratory, said.
"New therapies, however, are extremely expensive and not perfect," Saeed said. "As more patients are treated, drug resistant forms of HCV are emerging. Having a cell culture system where patient isolates can be grown and tested for resistance or susceptibility to alternative antiviral drug combinations should be useful for optimizing re-treatment strategies for those that fail treatment."