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U of S researchers develop new vaccine candidate against hepatitis C

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) have developed a vaccine candidate for hepatitis C, leading to hope in the fight against a disease for which no vaccines are yet available.

VIDO is the first in Canada to show that this vaccination technique may be effective against HCV. The study was published in this month's Journal of General Virology.

The team, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics (CANVAC), produced a vaccine candidate that decreased the amount of a carrier virus expressing hepatitis C virus (HCV) protein in mice by 100,000 times compared to the control.

"This technique uses the body's own cells, called dendritic cells, to vaccinate against hepatitis C," said Dr. Bhagirath Singh, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity.

Dendritic cells are key components of the immune system, activating and shaping the immune response. "The vaccine reduced the amount of hepatitis C protein in a highly significant manner," he said. "This offers a very promising approach to prevent liver disease caused by the virus and to ultimately eliminate it from the body."

About 20 per cent of people who contract HCV overcome the virus on their own. For those who develop chronic hepatitis, the immune system cannot clear the infection.

"In patients with chronic hepatitis C, there is evidence that the function of their dendritic cells is altered," said Sylvia van den Hurk, senior VIDO scientist and member of the research team that developed the vaccine candidate.

"We thought that if we could 'teach' the dendritic cells how to properly activate the immune response and deliver them back to the patient as a vaccine, the patients would clear or at least control the infection."

HCV is the leading cause for liver transplants in the wester
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Contact: University of Saskatchewan Communications
communications@usask.ca
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
10-Jan-2006


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