A new research study has identified two cellular proteins which are important factors in hepatitis C virus. This finding is very important as it could lead to approval of a new and less toxic treatment for hepatitis C virus that does not have dangerous side effects that can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis.
It is estimated hepatitis C virus infects a worldwide total of 270 to 300 million people and unfortunately the conventional treatments interferon and ribavirin have serious side effects. Because of this need for an improvement in treatments, medical researchers want to find a new drug which zeros in on cellular proteins rather than viral proteins. This opened the door for quercetin to be considered as it has an anti-viral benefit.
Samuel French, an assistant professor of pathology at UCLA and senior author of the study, stated his first task was to identify the cellular factors involved in hepatitis C replication. The team used mass spectrometry and found that heat shock proteins (HSPs) 40 and 70 were important for causing viral infection. It was already known that HSP 70 was involved, but they did not know HSP 40 was involved with the hepatitis C virus infection. French’s team was then able to show the natural compound quercetin has the ability to prevent the synthesis of these proteins and strongly inhibits viral infection in a tissue culture. French believes the quercetin discovery is very important because it presents a way to block these proteins with the idea of diminishing the level of virus in people, and perhaps lead to finding a way to eliminate the virus completely.
French wrote his paper on the study and it appeared in the recent issue of the journal Hepatology. Because he was successful in demonstrating quercetin’s ability to inhibit or blocking hepatitis C infection, he wants to begin a Phase 1 clinical trial at UCLA to determine if quercetin is a safe and effective compound.
Quercetin is a plant derived bioflavonoid, and is used by some people as a nutritional supplement. Earlier research has shown it could have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. For these reasons, quercetin is being investigated for a wide range of possible health benefits. French noted that at the current time early-stage clinical trials are being conducted to test quercetin for safety and efficacy countering sarcoidosis, asthma and glucose absorption in obesity and diabetes.
One of the advantages possessed by quercetin is that it targets cellular proteins instead of viral proteins, and so there is less of a chance a patient using quercetin would develop a viral resistance. The advantage here is cellular proteins cannot change like viral proteins are able to change.
Here in the United States we have treatment problems with hepatitis C virus because the virus does not respond to the standard treatments. This situation is made difficult to inhibit the virus, resulting in possible end-stage liver disease and death could result from the treatment problems. When HSP 40 and 70 were identified, French’s team began to use quercetin to block the proteins. This led to them discovering it diminished infectious particle production to non-toxic concentrations. It has led to the conclusion quercetin might allow the analysis of the viral life cycle, leading to a potential therapeutic use to retard virus production with low associate toxicity.
French explained that the clinical trial at UCLA will most likely direct their attention to patients with type 1 hepatitis C. This is the non-responsive virus type prevalent in this country. This is a rather discouraging situation as only about 50% of the patients with type 1 hepatitis C respond to the current form of treatment. French’s team will build the clinical trial using volunteers with type 1 hepatitis C who agree not to use the conventional therapies. Other research studies dealing with other diseases have shown quercetin resulted in no significant side effects. French commented that it will be a big advancement if they can find a non-toxic treatment for chronic hepatitis C, especially if there are no side effects.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a Doctor and do not give medical advice; this is a news report and cannot substitute for the advice of a medical professional.