Scientists have found a new drug candidate that can be used to stop the liver-damaging Hepatitis C virus (HCV) from multiplying. The research reported in the November issue of Nature Chemical Biology showed that the molecule keeps the virus from hijacking the lipid-making machinery in its host cell, making it harder for the virus to replicate.
RNA-viruses like HIV and HCV are prone to drug resistance. This may be because the drugs target proteins that the virus itself is making. To look for new drug targets and drugs, Hiroshi Sakamoto and colleagues searched a large number of naturally-occurring compounds for their ability to block the replication of the virus. They found one compound, NA255 from a plant fungus that works by blocking the host cell's ability to make certain lipids called sphingolipids. This decreases the availability of specialized lipid structures called rafts that the virus uses as a platform to replicate itself.
Besides increasing our basic knowledge of how HCV replicates itself within host cells, NA255 brings a new strategy to the anti-HCV arsenal by targeting the host cell's machinery.
Hiroshi Sakamoto (Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., Kanagawa, Japan)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Chemical Biology press release.
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