Biologists at University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) have developed a new monoclonal antibody therapy that has managed to prevent hepatitis C infection in an animal model.
Researchers found that the human monoclonal antibody targeting the virus protected chimpanzees from HCV infection in a dose-dependent manner in a study conducted at Texas Biomed's Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio.
Chimpanzees are the only species other than humans that can be infected by the hepatitis C virus and therefore the results from this study were critical in the development of the monoclonal antibody.
Scientists from MassBiologics; Texas Biomed; the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and Merck Research Laboratories, and funded by MassBiologics and NIH collaborated in the work.
Researchers had previously demonstrated that the monoclonal antibody, called HCV1, blocks HCV from infecting liver cells in laboratory tissue culture.
"This is an important proof-of-concept study demonstrating a high dose of neutralizing antibody can protect the liver from HCV infection using monoclonal antibodies in a study that was designed to mimic the transplantation setting," said study co-author Robert E. Lanford, Ph.D., of Texas Biomed.
"One can envision improving on these results with a cocktail of antibodies or by using this antibody with some of the newer antivirals currently in clinical trials. Infection of the new donor liver by residual virus in the patient is one of the major obstacles preventing a full recovery in these patients," Lanford added.
MassBiologics has been pursuing the development of HCV1 as a therapy for patients with end-stage liver disease undergoing liver transplantation as a result of HCV infection. HCV1 is a monoclonal antibody that binds to the surface of the HCV virus and blocks the ability of the virus to enter liver cells.
The findings appeared in the August 30th issue of PLOS Pathogens.