Hepatitis C Virus: How it Builds and how it Changes
The main focus of research in the Russell laboratory is the molecular virology of the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Approximately 180 million people worldwide are living with this viral infection, and many of them don't yet know it. There is no vaccine available for HCV, and until recently, antiviral agents that combat this infection were extremely limited. In 2011 the first virus-specific inhibitors for HCV were approved for clinical use by the FDA, but drug resistance against these inhibitors is already posing a significant problem. Consequently, novel inhibitors and novel classes of inhibitors are still needed. Using a relatively new virus culture system, along with a cell culture-adapted strain of HCV that Dr. Russell discovered, his laboratory is able to perform basic viral protein function studies and cell cycle analysis of HCV that would be otherwise difficult in less robust systems. The primary objective of their work is to determine the mechanism by which this virus assembles itself into an infectious virion and directs its release from the infected cell. Currently, members of the Russell lab are focusing on the viral core and p7 proteins with respect to their functions in virus production. Through this work Dr. Russell's team hopes to identify novel drug targets for HCV. The other major focus of the group is drug resistance and the mechanism by which HCV can develop resistance to currently available therapies, as well as novel inhibitors in development. In this regard members of the Dr. Russell's team have recently developed a virus-based assay for monitoring the virus' genetic barrier to drug resistance. Results from this work allows them to predict whether drug resistance against a given antiviral compound will develop rapidly in infected individuals or will require longer durations of treatment. In this presentation Dr. Russell will present new findings from his team regarding the basic molecular virology of HCV and how it assembles into infectious virions, as well as some clinically relevant data with respect to current and future treatment of HCV.