In one corner we have the recurring champion, hepatitis C, and up for the challenge is the virus-destroyer, “nanozyme”. To acknowledge World Hepatitis Day on Saturday, let’s highlight promising research coming out of the University of Florida this month.
You probably have already or will in your lifetime encounter someone with HepC and not even know it because approximately 80% of people infected with the disease do not exhibit symptoms. While HepC is considered a curable disease, for many individuals this reality does not exist due to a lack of advancement in treatments and access globally. Combination antiviral therapy with interferon and ribavirin has been the mainstay of hepatitis C treatment. Unfortunately, interferon is not widely available globally and patient response is not consistent.
The University of Florida College of Medicine recently announced advanced research toward treating diseases like cancer and hepatitis on a cellular level by “creating a tiny particle that can be programmed to shut down the genetic production line that cranks out disease-related proteins.” While the concept of “nanobots” is not novel – nanoparticle-based technologies are already in use in medical settings, such as in genetic testing and for pinpointing genetic markers of disease – this is a first for HepC. Y. Charles Cao and Dr. Chen Liu have created and tested a particle that targets the hepatitis C virus in the liver and prevents the virus from making copies of itself. In laboratory tests, the treatment led to an almost 100% decrease in hepatitis C virus levels.
From the UF press release:
The new virus-destroyer, called a nanozyme, has a backbone of tiny gold particles and a surface with two main biological components. The first biological portion is a type of protein called an enzyme that can destroy the genetic recipe-carrier, called mRNA, for making the disease-related protein in question. The other component is a large molecule called a DNA oligonucleotide that recognizes the genetic material of the target to be destroyed and instructs its neighbor, the enzyme, to carry out the deed. By itself, the enzyme does not selectively attack hepatitis C, but the combo does the trick.
The UF nanoparticle design takes inspiration from the Nobel prize-winning discovery of a process in the body in which one part of a two-component complex destroys the genetic instructions for manufacturing protein, and the other part serves to hold off the body’s immune system attacks. This complex controls many naturally occurring processes in the body, so drugs that imitate it have the potential to hijack the production of proteins needed for normal function. The UF-developed therapy tricks the body into accepting it as part of the normal processes, but does not interfere with those processes.
While much more testing is needed to determine the safety of the approach, for the 3–4 million people infected with the hepatitis C virus globally each year, the ‘bots cannot get here fast enough.
Get the facts: Hepatitis WHO Fact Sheet
University of Florida press release: University researchers develop “nanorobot” that can be programmed to target different diseases…
Research abstract: Nanoparticle-based artificial RNA silencing machinery for antiviral therapy
Image via Gizmag