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When acute hepatitis develops into chronic hepatitis
Date:2/17/2009

cut off the effector T cells. They counteract any destruction of the tissue.

The international team of research scientists examined how these T helper cells influence the development of the hepatitis B disease. To this end, they took blood samples from Indian patients with hepatitis B and compared the extent to which the altered incidence of the T cell subsets in the blood influences the development of the illness and which genes are responsible for this.

Guzman's and Geffers's teams were able to show that, with acute hepatitis B, the effector T cells are extremely active and destroy infected host cells. Treg cells prevent effector T cells damaging healthy liver tissue during this stage of the infection. On the other hand, T effector cells are largely inactive with chronic hepatitis B infections: the Treg cells prevent an immune reaction and, in doing so, increase the number of hepatitis B viruses that are able to live in the organ. The immune system's constant struggle against the virus leads to a slow destruction of the liver tissue. The researchers checked their observations with gene activity: They demonstrated that more that one hundred genes in effector T cells are regulated differently in an immune reaction to acute hepatitis B than to a chronic case.

"The molecular mechanisms and the specific gene activities of a hepatitis B infection were unknown up until now. We now have a much better understanding of how acute and chronic hepatitis B infections develop and which processes are involved", says Carlos A. Guzmn. "With gene analysis we are able to further investigate the molecular links, which, in many ways, are a reason for the clinical observations". The doctor thus has an opportunity to improve his diagnosis with so-called "marker genes" and to improve his treatment of the patients with targeted, immunotherapeutic measures", says Robert Geffers, who conducted the gene analysis of the blood tests.


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Contact: Dr. Bastian Dornbach
bad@helmholtz-hzi.de
49-053-161-811-407
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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