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Indian J Med Res. 2010 Jan;131:17-34.

Hepatitis C virus: molecular biology & current therapeutic options.

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1
Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA. sds20@psu.edu

Abstract

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a small (approximately 55 to 65 nm), spherical, enveloped, hepatotropic RNA virus that causes acute and chronic hepatitis in humans. Persistent virus infection with HCV often leads to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). At present there is neither a selective antiviral therapy nor a preventive vaccine. The only available treatment option is a long-acting pegylated-interferon-alpha, given in combination with nucleoside analog ribavirin, which is not very effective. Molecular studies of HCV began with the successful cloning of its genome in 1989. For many years, research to develop therapeutics was stalled by the inability to grow virus in tissue culture. A major milestone was achieved with the recent development of a robust cell culture system for HCV propagation. HCV proteins assemble and form replication complexes on modified host membranes, called as membranous webs. Even though HCV is detected and targeted by host immune mechanisms, it establishes and maintains a life-long persistent infection. HCV has evolved multiple strategies to survive and persist in hostile cellular environments; and the viral population is known to rapidly change during the course of a natural infection thereby escaping immune surveillance. Rapid mutations also help virus to survive by selecting for the variants which are resistant to antiviral drugs. Although precise mechanisms regulating HCV entry into hepatic cells via receptors remain unknown, HCV also has the capability of direct cell-to-cell transmission. The extremely complex and incompletely understood nature of the HCV lifecycle has complicated the discovery of new therapies. A complete understanding of the functional roles played by the HCV proteins during HCV lifecycle is vital for developing a successful cure. This review deals with current status of efforts in addressing these daunting tasks and challenges in developing therapeutics against chronic and rapidly changing hepatitis C virus.

PMID:
20167971
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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