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Medical breakthrough: chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus cured for the first time

Medical breakthrough: chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus cured for the first time


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Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus was overcome for the first time

Health experts say more than 260 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. German researchers have now been able to defeat such an infection for the first time.

Hundreds of millions of people are infected with hepatitis B viruses

Hepatitis viruses have been plaguing mankind for thousands of years: last year, researchers at the University of Kiel found a strain of ancient hepatitis B viruses by examining 7,000-year-old skeletons. Infections with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) are a global health problem today. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 260 million people suffer from a chronic infection with the virus. This makes hepatitis B one of the most common infectious diseases. Due to the consequences of serious liver diseases, the virus costs many lives every year. But there may be hope: Because researchers have now been able to defeat a chronic infection with the virus for the first time.

Real healing possible

Researchers from the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technical University of Munich (TUM), in collaboration with colleagues from the University Clinic Hamburg Eppendorf (UKE) and the University Clinic Heidelberg, succeeded for the first time in the animal model to defeat a chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus.

As stated in a communication, the team has shown in its work that T cell therapy can lead to a real cure.

According to the information, it has so far not been possible to control the virus completely.

The study results were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Long-term complications

The hepatitis B vaccination prevents new HBV infections, but for people who have been infected at birth, for example, and who are chronic virus carriers, cure has so far not been possible.

Drugs only prevent the virus from multiplying in liver cells, but they cannot eliminate the virus.

In the long term, complications such as liver cancer or cirrhosis (a conversion of liver tissue into non-functional connective tissue) can occur.

"Chronic hepatitis B has not yet been curable," explains Prof. Dr. Ulrike Protzer, Director of the Institute of Virology at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and at the Technical University of Munich, two partner institutions of the German Center for Infection Research.

"Now we were able to show that the new technology of T-cell therapy is an encouraging solution for the treatment of chronic infection and the liver cancer caused by the hepatitis B virus," said the scientist, "because these" living drugs "are the most effective, what is currently available to us ”.

Treatment with T cells

According to Dr. Karin Wisskirchen, first author of the study and scientist at the Institute of Virology, specifically developed the use of T cells as an approach to fight HBV infection and HBV-induced liver cancer.

It is known that virus-specific T cells are either not found at all in chronically infected patients or have low activity.

On the other hand, if a patient can get the virus under control, a strong T cell response can be measured.

"This makes it obvious to compensate for this deficit with specific T cells," says Karin Wisskirchen. The genetic information for HBV-specific T cell receptors was obtained from patients in whom the infection had healed.

It can then be introduced into T cells from the blood of patients with chronic hepatitis B in the laboratory. This creates new, active T cells that fight the virus or virus-induced cancer cells.

Reprogrammed T cells produced in this way were able to completely eliminate HBV-infected cells in cell culture.

According to the communication, the immune cells were then tested in cooperation with the group of Prof. Maura Dandri from UKE Hamburg in the humanized mouse model.

The virus controlled the liver in the liver even after a single administration of the artificially modified T cells. The T cells only attacked infected liver cells, but spared the healthy tissue.

Myrcludex B, an experimental drug, then prevented HBV from spreading again in healthy liver cells once the T cells stopped circulating. This allowed the infection to heal.

Clinical trial planned

"The promising results of this study help us to further investigate the potential of T-cell therapy and to advance clinical development with our partners," said Prof. Protzer.

"We are taking a decisive step in establishing this form of personalized medicine."

As a result, the institute will continue to work on how the therapy can be applied to the widest possible group of patients. According to the information, the Helmholtz Zentrum München has given part of its T cell therapy to SCG Cell therapy Pte. Ltd. licensed out.

"Together with the partner, we are planning a clinical study to treat patients with HBV-associated liver cell carcinoma," Wisskirchen explains. (ad)

Author and source information


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