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UAlbany Research Aims to Open Doors to Therapies for Hepatitis C

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 12, 2013) -- University at Albany researchers have focused on a specific cellular protein that may hold the key to combatting the Hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Led by biological sciences Professor Cara Pager and supported by a three-year, $225,000 Liver Scholars Award from American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and American Liver Foundation (ALF), researchers will investigate the process in which HCV exploits liver cells and manipulates a host protein called RCK, to build new viruses.

HCV and the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) are widespread risk factors for developing liver cancer, the most common cause of cancer-related deaths. While a vaccine is available for HBV, there is no viable vaccine and limited treatment options for the 200 million individuals worldwide infected with HCV.
Dr. Cara Pager looks through a microscope. Photo used by permission.

Cara Pager and her team have focused on a specific cellular protein that may hold the key to combatting the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). (Photo Paul Bukowski/Times Union photo used by permission.)

"Thanks to the AASLD we have an exciting opportunity to increase our understanding of the biological mechanisms this formidable virus," Pager said.

Scientists know that HCV exploits the host cell protein RCK, which “untangles” RNA. 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. By blocking the action of this “Untangler” protein we may be able to prevent HCV from building new virus particles and could hold the key to a break-through drug therapy, said Pager.

The Liver Scholars Award was established for researchers in the early stages of their career with the goal to promote research in liver physiology and disease, as well as enable young scientists to successfully compete for national funding.

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