Scientists Successfully Grow Hepatitis C Virus in the Lab

Specialty Pharmacy Times, September/October 2015, Volume 6, Issue 5

A recent study published in Nature revealed that when scientists overexpressed a particular gene in human liver cancer cell lines, hepatitis C virus (HCV) could easily replicate.

In 1999, a group of German researchers first succeeded in coaxing modified forms of HCV to replicate in cells in the laboratory. However, it was discovered soon thereafter that these forms of the virus were able to replicate because they had acquired “adaptive” mutations.

Researchers suspected that one or more critical elements might be missing in the laboratory-grown cell lines. To test their hypothesis, the researchers screened a library of approximately 7000 human genes to look for one whose expression would allow replication of nonmutated HCV.

The virus only began to replicate in its nonmutated form when the scientists overexpressed the gene SEC14L2. Adding serum samples from HCV-infected patients to the cell lines also resulted in virus replication.

This process will allow scientists to evaluate the best treatment options for patients by first testing treatments on the laboratory-grown cell lines. SEC14L2 appears to inhibit lipids from interacting with dangerous reactive oxygen species, a process that prevents HCV replication.

“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,” said lead author Mohsan Saeed, PhD, in a press release. SPT