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Targeting microRNA knocks out hepatitis C

Blocking a small molecule, a new drug reduces levels of the virus, chimp study shows

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4:07pm, December 3, 2009

If the Bible’s David were a modern doctor, he might appreciate a new strategy aimed at stopping a Goliath health threat: Bringing down the hepatitis C virus with the help of tiny, precisely targeted molecules.

The possible new treatment for hepatitis C infections shows promising results in chimpanzees, researchers report online December 3 in Science.

A compound called SPC3649 sequesters a small genetic molecule known as microRNA-122, keeping it away from the virus. The treatment reduced levels of hepatitis C virus in infected chimps, apparently without serious side effects, say scientists from the Danish drug company Santaris Pharma and colleagues at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio. The virus also did not develop resistance to the drug during the study.

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