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08 May 2009
Washington, USA

A human monoclonal antibody developed by Scientists at University of Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories neutralises the Hepatitis C virus
Scientists at University of Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories (MBL) seem to have discovered the means to get patients rid of the deadly Hepatitis C virus (HCV).

A human monoclonal antibody developed by researchers at MBL has been found to neutralise the HCV and prevent infection in a pre–clinical animal model of the disease, reports IANS.

Monoclonal antibody is any of a class of antibodies produced in the lab by a single clone of cells or a cell line and consisting of identical antibody molecules.

“This antibody shows significant efficacy against the virus,” MBL Executive Director Donna Ambrosino said.

MBL scientists injected transgenic (genetically modified) mice with elements of HCV and then sought individual human antibodies produced in the mice that would recognise and bind to the HCV's outer coat, known as the glycoprotein.

Once they found human antibodies that looked promising, they evaluated in vitro (lab) the ability of those antibodies to neutralise the virus and selected an antibody for further characterisation.

This antibody, now known as MBL–HCV1, was able to bind tightly with all genotypes (group of organisms sharing a specific genetic constitution) of HCV tested from infected patient samples, researchers said.

MBL–HCV1 was then tested off–site on three primates. In that study, one animal received no antibody, one a low dose of the new antibody, and one a higher dose.

Then all three animals were exposed to HCV. The animals with low or no antibody dosages developed HCV infections, but the animal with the higher dose was protected.

Subsequently, researchers gave the high dose to the animal that received no antibody, and in that case the HCV was cleared from that animal's system.

“These results are encouraging as a possible treatment for HCV infected patients, but more work needs to be done before we know how effective it will be in people,” Ambrosino noted.

HCV attacks the liver and can eventually lead to liver failure and for the most serious cases that do not respond to antiviral drugs, liver transplantation is the only option.

Globally, as many as 170 million people are estimated to suffer from HCV infection.

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