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New culture method for hepatitis C virus uses primary hepatocytes and patient serum

d shown to possess the expected size and shape of HCV virus particles.

Once the system was established, the group examined whether sera from patients carrying HCV could infect the human fetal hepatocytes. When sera from patients infected with different HCV strains were added to the hepatocyte culture system, viral replication occurred and new virus particles were produced.

In both transfection and infection models, virus particles were released in a cyclical manner, with bursts of virus produced every 10-14 days. This is similar to what has been reported during clinical HCV infection, possibly due to the host's natural defenses. Interestingly, cultured hepatocytes responded to viral replication by displaying signs of distress and cell death and by expressing interferon-beta, a cellular antiviral, in an effort to control the infection.

This culture system provides a breakthrough in studying HCV replication in nontransformed hepatocytes, the natural target of the virus. By allowing infection by patient serum containing a wide array of virus strains, this system may allow better understanding of the differences between different strains, further improving treatment strategies.
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Source:American Journal of Pathology


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