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Key to Hepatitis C May Be Two Cellular Proteins

Finding could lead to treatment with the natural compound Quercetin

FRIDAY, Jan. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified two cellular proteins that play an important role in hepatitis C infection, and they say the finding may point to new and less toxic treatments for the disease, which can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

The conventional treatments for hepatitis C are interferon and ribavirin, which can cause major side effects and aren't effective in all patients. A new drug that targets cellular proteins rather than viral proteins would be an important advance in treatment, according to the team from the University of California at Los Angeles.

The researchers found that heat shock proteins 40 and 70 are major cellular factors in hepatitis C infection. They also discovered that a natural compound called Quercetin blocks the synthesis of these proteins and significantly inhibited viral infection in tissue culture.

Quercetin -- a plant-based bioflavonoid sometimes used as a nutritional supplement -- may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

"This is an important finding because we can block these proteins with the idea of reducing the level of the virus in people and, ideally, completely eliminate it," study senior author Samuel French, an assistant professor of pathology, said in a UCLA news release.

The study was published in the December issue of the journal Hepatology.

A phase 1 clinical trial will be conducted at UCLA to determine if Quercetin is safe and effective in patients with type 1 hepatitis C. Only about 50 percent of patients with type 1 hepatitis C respond to treatment.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about hepatitis C.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of California at Los Angeles, news release, Jan. 4, 2010

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