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Canadian Researchers Report Progress in Hepatitis C Vaccine Development

The University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) recently reported a potential breakthrough in the development of a vaccine for hepatitis C virus (HCV). Researchers from VIDO, a nonprofit organization owned and operated by the university and subsidized by the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Canadian government and industry, have tested the vaccination technique in mice.

The HCV vaccine study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics. The technique uses dendritic cells, which are already found in the body and play an integral part in immune response. The dendritic cells were exposed to an HCV protein along with a strong immune stimulator. They were then injected into the mice as a vaccine to prompt an immune system response against the virus. “We thought that if we could ‘teach’ the dendritic cells how to properly activate the immune response and deliver them back to the patient as a vaccine, the patients would clear or at least control the infection,” said Sylvia van den Hurk, PhD, senior VIDO scientist. By reinvigorating the immune response to HCV, the vaccine would ideally block the development of chronic HCV and its complications.

“The vaccine reduced the amount of hepatitis C protein in a highly significant manner,” said Dr. Bhagirath Singh, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity. “This offers a very promising approach to prevent liver disease caused by the virus and to ultimately eliminate it from the body.”         

The co-authors of the study were Lorne Babiuk, PhD, director of VIDO; Hong Yu, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow at VIDO; and Hui Huang, BMed, MSc., and Jim Xiang, PhD, MD, of the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency. Findings were published in the January 2006 issue of the Journal of General Virology.

Source: University of Saskatchewan news release dated January 10, 2006


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