New Culture System Models Human HCV Infection

July 31, 2008
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors
ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

Pharmaceutical companies developing new drug candidates for Hepatitis C virus infection now can test their compounds with a novel culture system that mimics the biology of HCV infection in humans.

San Diego, CA (July 16)-Pharmaceutical companies developing new drug candidates for Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection now can test their compounds with a novel culture system that mimics the biology of HCV infection in humans. Assistant Professor of Medicine Martina Buck, PhD, a researcher at the University of California at San Diego’s (UCSD’s) Department of Medicine and Moores UCSD Cancer Center, developed the first tissue of normal, human liver cells that model HCV infection.

The development is significant in research and development because there is currently no animal model that is effective for treating HCV therapies or vaccine candidates. Currently, the HCV life cycle is not fully understood because the infection of normal human liver cells (hepatocytes) has not been possible to achieve in culture. Until now, the only system used to test HCV uses cloned, synthetic HCV RNA  expressed from liver tumor cells, which cannot be infected with the natural occurring HCV obtained from patients.

The UCSD culture allows direct infection with HCV genotypes 1, 2, 3, and 4 from the blood of HCV-infected patients. According to a USCD press release, the cell line will allow researchers to conduct mechanistic experiments in culture, such as blocking the virus pathways. “There is a need for new treatments and for development of a possible vaccine for HCV,” says Buck. “Now we have a model system to support work by investigators in this area.”