Scientists have struggled to find ways to grow hepatitis C virus in human cells in the lab -- an essential part of learning how the virus works and developing new effective treatments.
When the scientists expressed the gene SEC14L2, the virus replicated in its wild-type, non-mutated form. Even adding serum samples from HCV-infected patients to these engineered cell lines resulted in virus replication.
"Practically speaking, this means that if scientists want to study HCV from an infected patient, it's now possible to take a blood sample, inoculate the engineered cells, and grow that patient's form of the virus in the lab," says first author.
It's not entirely clear how the protein expressed by SEC14L2 works, says the author, but it appears to inhibit lipids from interacting with dangerous reactive oxygen species, a process that prevents HCV replication.