Opening Doors to Therapies for Hepatitis C

UAlbany biologist Cara Pager wants to better understand the biological mechanisms of Hepatitis C (HCV), the foremost cause of liver disease in the U.S., in order to stop its advance.

cara pager
Cara Pager, investigating the process in which HCV exploits liver cells.

Supported by a three-year, $225,000 Liver Scholars Award from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, Pager is investigating the process in which HCV exploits liver cells and manipulates a host protein called RCK to build new viruses.

HCV is a widespread risk factor for developing liver cancer, the most common cause of cancer-related deaths. No viable vaccine exists for the world’s 200 million HCV-infected individuals, and they are left with largely inadequate treatments.

Research shows that HCV prompts the RCK protein to first help the virus bind tiny liver-specific RNA molecules and, second, to build new virus particles. Pager hopes her research will lead to new breakthrough drug therapies that will block RCK from building new virus particles.

At many institutions, Pager would likely work in a microbiology department, but at UAlbany she conducts her research at The RNA Institute amid 60 other RNA-dedicated scientists. This has afforded her a broader perspective and the use of technology to which she might not normally have been exposed.