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Hepatitis C Treatment's Side Effects Can Now Be Studied in the Lab

19 November, 2012

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London: The adverse side effects of certain hepatitis C medications can now be replicated and observed in Petri dishes and test tubes, thanks to a research team led by Craig Cameron, the Paul Berg Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Penn State University.

"The new method not only will help us to understand the recent failures of hepatitis C antiviral drugs in some patients in clinical trials," said Cameron. "It also could help to identify medications that eliminate all adverse effects."

The team's findings, published in the current issue of the journal PLOS Pathogens, may help pave the way toward the development of safer and more-effective treatments for hepatitis C, as well as other pathogens such as SARS and West Nile virus.

First author Jamie Arnold, a research associate in Cameron's lab at Penn State, explained that the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which affects over 170,000,000 people worldwide, is the leading cause of liver disease and, although antiviral treatments are effective in many patients, they cause serious side effects in others. "Many antiviral medications for treating HCV are chemical analogs for the building blocks of RNA that are used to assemble new copies of the virus's genome, enabling it to replicate," he said.

"These medications are close enough to the virus's natural building blocks that they get incorporated into the virus's genome. But they also are different in ways that lead to the virus's incomplete replication. The problem, however, is that the medication not only mimics the virus's genetic material, but also the genetic material of the patient. So, while the drug causes damage to the virus, it also may affect the patient's own healthy tissues."

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