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Novel approach to treating hepatitis C virus infection developed by Canadian researchers


Montreal, QC April 22, 2003 Four of CANVAC’s affiliated researchers and their collaborators have successfully treated hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected mice using what they say is an entirely novel approach.

The concept, elaborated by Dr Christopher D Richardson and Dr Eric C Hsu, from the Ontario Cancer Institute of the University Health Network, was tested at the University of Alberta using Drs Lorne Tyrrell and Norman Kneteman’s mouse model of HCV replication. This approach involves introducing into liver cells a gene encoding a modified natural protein, which is then only activated in HCV infected cells and leads to the death of these cells, thereby halting replication of the virus.

Published in the May issue of "Nature Biotechnology", the newly discovered therapeutic approach could theoretically, in humans, reduce the amount of virus in the blood and eliminate HCV at early stages of infection or prior to liver transplantation. This technology could be applied to other viral infections.

The Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics (CANVAC) is a network of 74 of the most highly recognized Canadian specialists in the fields of immunology, virology, and molecular biology, who are faculty members at 25 universities and affiliated research institutes. The Network scientists, in collaboration with 22 corporate partners, as well as interested government departments and agencies, and several patient and consumer groups, are working toward the development of safe and effective vaccines against cancer and life-threatening viral infections, including those caused by HIV and HVC.

CANVAC is hosted by the Universit de Montral and supported by an annual grant of $4.7 million from the Government of Canada, along with substantial investments from its private sector partners.