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Identification of specific genes predicts which patients will respond to Hepatitis C treatment

hesis about what to look for," said Aled Edwards, a Professor in the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research at University of Toronto with cross appointments in the Departments of Medical Biophysics and Medical Genetics and Microbiology. He is also a senior scientist at the Clinical Genomics Centre at the University Health Network and Director and CEO of the Structural Genomics Consortium. "We cast a very wide net, looking at 19,000 genes of each of the patients."

The researchers found that the difference between those patients who did not respond to therapy to those who did was a subset of 18 genes. In the non-responders to treatment, 16 genes were turned on and two were turned off. Many of the 16 genes which were turned on are stimulated by interferon, one of the key antiviral agents that the body produces in response to viral infection and a medication that patients currently receive as part of their therapy. "Paradoxically, in the non-responders, the liver is revved up and the genes are responding like mad, but there is something about the response that just does not work," said Dr. McGilvray.

In the near future, determining the levels of a small subset of genes in patients' liver biopsies, with perhaps a simple blood test, may be helpful in deciding who will respond to treatment of chronic Hepatitis C with the current combination therapy using the synthetic antiviral agent ribavirin and interferon. This treatment can currently get rid of the virus in only roughly 50% of persons infected with genotype 1, the most common genotype in North America and world-wide.


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Source:University of Toronto


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