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New screening system for hepatitis C
Date:2/11/2010

A newly designed system of identifying molecules for treating hepatitis C should enable scientists to discover novel and effective therapies for the dangerous and difficult-to-cure disease of the liver, says Zhilei Chen, a Texas A&M University assistant professor of chemical engineering who helped develop the screening system.

The system, Chen explains, enables researchers to study the effects of molecules that obstruct all aspects of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) life cycle. That's a significant milestone in HCV research, says Chen, noting that previous methods of developing drug treatments for the virus have been limited by the fact that researchers were only able to study one aspect of the HCV life cycle. Chen's findings appear in the most recent edition of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

First identified in 1989 and responsible for hepatitis C, an infectious disease affecting the liver, HCV has infected an estimated 180 million people worldwide. Spread by blood-to-blood contact, HCV can cause chronic infection that leads to dangerous scarring of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer and death.

Although new infections resulting from blood transfusions are rare thanks to screening measures that began in 1990, the overall number of people facing death or serious liver disease from HCV is steadily rising because people often live decades with the virus before showing symptoms, Chen says. In addition, injection drug users are at high risk for infection from contaminated needles.

The only existing therapy for HCV is a physically and emotionally taxing 48-week course of treatment that cures less than half of all patients who undergo it, Chen says. The particularly grueling nature of the treatment it's been compared to chemotherapy as well as the high financial costs associated with it often result in many patients opting to forego the therapy.

Because Chen's newly developed screening syst
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Contact: Ryan Garcia
ryan.garcia99@tamu.edu
979-845-9237
Texas A&M University
Source:Eurekalert

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