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Transplant Proc. 2006 May;38(4):1181-4.

Development of humanized mice for the study of hepatitis C virus infection.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, IRBM P. Angeletti Merck Research Laboratories, Pomezia, Italy.


The development of a small animal model for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a critical issue for the development of novel anti-HCV drugs. To this aim, we have tried many different approaches for generating mice carrying humanized liver. Main efforts were focused on the transplantation of human hepatocytes into immunocompromised mice (SCID-/-, Bg-/-) carrying a genetic lethal liver disease (Alb-uPA). Survival of homozygotic animals should largely depend on early transplantation with healthy hepatocytes. In parallel to establishing a colony of Alb-uPA/SCID/Bg mice, we developed a microsurgical procedure for intrasplenic xenotransplantation of healthy hepatocytes in 1-week-old mice. So far, we generated several chimeras by xenotransplanting human hepatocytes in Alb-uPA+/+/SCID-/-/Bg-/- mice at 1 week after birth. In a first step, identification of successfully engrafted animals is possible by quantification of human serum albumin and human alpha 1 antitrypsin in mouse sera. Additional preliminary histomorphological analysis of liver sections from chimeric animals was also carried out. One of the mice was transiently infected with HCV, reaching viremia levels of approximately 10(5) genomes/mL. However, the efficiency of this system to generate chimeric mice is still very limited. We are currently exploring the use of more robust models of hepatic disease. Moreover, we have been also exploring novel strategies for the generation of chimeric mice by xenotransplanting human adult stem cells, instead of human hepatocytes, at preimmune stages of development.

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