Hepatitis C: Could this research help us tackle viruses?
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus, the disease symptoms range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. It is a major cause of liver cancer. (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-c). WHO estimated that in 2016, approximately 399 000 people died from hepatitis C, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (primary liver cancer). There is currently no effective vaccine against hepatitis C. Prof Cliona O’Farrelly is on a mission to find out why some people can block infection by hepatitis C, in a bid to improve treatment. Prof Cliona O’Farrelly has made exciting discoveries about the liver having its own special immune system, and now she is keen to know what antiviral strategies we can learn from women whose immune systems seem to block hepatitis C virus from establishing an infection. Stemnovate has expertise in reprogramming cells to multiple cell types. Induced pluripotent stem cells were reported in 2006 and Prof Yamanak and Prof Gurdon were awarded Noble prize for this technology in 2012 (https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2012/summary/). The adult cells, blood cells or skin cells are reprogrammed with human genes expressed in embryonic stages but without the use of any embryos. The cells acquire properties like Embryonic stem cells that can then differentiate to form neurons, heart cells and liver cells. The interesting project requires conversion of blood cells to liver cells. The process takes 3 to 4 weeks. The induced pluripotent stem cell lines further are thoroughly investigated for stability, differentiation and cryopreserved. These cells are a renewable source to differentiated into Liver cells. The methodologies has been adapted from the fascinating work conducted in lab of Stemnovate’s co founder Prof. David Hay. His group for the last 15 years has developed great understanding of stages of liver differentiation form the ES cells and applications for drug discovery. At Stemnovate our expertise is for the industrial research to assess reproducibility, upscaling and establishing production methodologies. We work in partnership with researchers on improving our understanding of science better through new method and technology development. The reprogramming process is stochastic and affected by sample variability due to genetics, cells type etc. The efficiency of process can be low with blood samples as there are multiple cell types and most are terminally differentiated. We are addressing these technical challenges through whole transcriptomics analysis to understand wider interplay of genes, identify new biomarkers along with the multiparametric characterisation with confocal microscopy, immunofluorescence imaging, analysis of stage specific markers (protein and gene expression). Our biobank of IPS lines allows wider population genotype analysis to better understand factors that can have an impact on individual physiological responses for precision medicine and disease modelling. Please use the following link to read about this very interesting project.