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Scripps Research Institute scientists find promising vaccine targets on hepatitis C virus
Date:4/3/2012

treatment for HCV infection involves a 12- to 36-week course of the immune-stimulating protein interferon-alpha, the antiviral drug ribavirin and HCV protease blocker. But it is not completely effective, and it causes significant adverse side effectsaside from being very expensive. To fully stamp out the HCV pandemic, especially in developing countries, scientists will have to develop a cheap preventive vaccine.

Yet an effective HCV vaccine has so far been elusive. The virus mutates very rapidly, and thus, antibodies raised against one isolate of HCV typically won't protect against a subsequent HCV infection. Hospital samples of HCV suggest that the virus's genes, and the proteins for which they code, are highly variable even within an individual patient.

"One of the big goals of HCV vaccine development has been to find an accessible spot on the virus that doesn't change constantly," said Law.

To find such vulnerable spots, researchers sift through antibodies sampled from infected people and look for those antibodies that can neutralize a broad range of viral strains. The locations on the virus where those broadly neutralizing antibodies bind mark the vulnerable viral structures that can be used as the bases of a broadly effective, antibody-stimulating vaccine. Previous studies, including a 2008 study in Nature Medicine, for which Law was lead author, have found some broadly neutralizing HCV antibodies. But for the present study, Law and his colleagues used a more thorough approach, known as "exhaustive panning," to see if they could find new and even more broadly neutralizing antibodies. "Exhaustive panning is a powerful technique for finding rare antibodies that might otherwise go undetected," Law said.

HCV employs a complex of two envelope glycoproteins, E1 and E2, to grab and fuse with target cells. Erick Giang, a research assistant in Law's lab, harvested this viral E1-E2 complex from HCV-producing cells in a lab dis
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Contact: Mika Ono
mikaono@scripps.edu
858-784-2052
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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