Sunday, March 2, 2014

Attack on Hepatitis B Virus DNA a New Way of Defense

"Activation of the lymphotoxin β receptor in the host cell promotes certain proteins and supports their function in such a way that they chemically modulate and degrade viral cccDNA."

Scientists in Munich, Germany, have discovered how the viral DNA of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) can be degraded in the cell nucleus of liver cells, consequently allowing the virus to be eliminated. Viruses such as HBV can persist by depositing their genetic information (DNA) in the cell nucleus, where the DNA is normally not degraded. This prevents antiviral drugs from eliminating these viruses. But the newly discovered mechanism could make this possible without damaging the infected cell in the liver. In the current issue of the prestigious journal "Science", the scientists from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen and the Helmholtz Zentrum München report that now new therapeutic possibilities are opening up as a consequence.

Although preventive vaccination is possible, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that more than 240 million people around the world are currently suffering from a chronic hepatitis B infection. They face a high risk of developing liver cirrhosis or even liver cancer. In Germany alone, more than half a million people are affected. Although available antiviral medicines can control the hepatitis B virus, they cannot completely eliminate it. As a result, the HBV in the patient's liver is reactivated as soon as the treatment is discontinued.

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