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article imageClue for hepatitis C survival

By Tim Sandle     Apr 17, 2014 in Science
Scientists have identified why people with the hepatitis C virus get liver disease and why the virus is able to persist in the body for so long. The answer is that the virus attacks the liver cells' energy centers.
The hepatitis C virus appears attempt at attacking a liver cell structure called the mitochondria. Mitochondria are found in every cell in the human body; they are responsible for creating more than 90 percent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth
By attacking the mitochondria, the virus appears to dismantle the cell's innate ability to fight infection. Cells recognize the damage and respond to it by recruiting proteins that tell the mitochondria to eliminate the damaged area, but the repair process ends up helping the virus to replicate and infect other cells.
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting primarily the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Chronic infection can lead to scarring of the liver and ultimately to cirrhosis, which is generally apparent after many years. In some cases, those with cirrhosis will go on to develop liver failure or liver cancer. The virus is spread is spread primarily by blood-to-blood contact associated with intravenous drug use, poorly sterilized medical equipment, and transfusions.
The new research suggests that suggests that mitochondrial operations could be a therapeutic target against hepatitis C, the leading cause of liver transplants and a major cause of liver cancer in the U.S.
The study was carried out at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. The findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in a paper titled “Hepatitis C virus triggers mitochondrial fission and attenuates apoptosis to promote viral persistence”.
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