University researches have developed a groundbreaking method which can be used to test a new cure for hepatitis C.
Doctors at the University of Westminster have developed a drug they hope will cure liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus.
It is based on gene therapy under development by the Australian company Benitec Biopharma and will be the first of its kind to be tested in humans.
Around 150 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C, and more than 350,000 people die every year from related liver diseases.
Although treatments already exist for hepatitis C, these are lengthy, have low chances of success, cause significant side-effects or the virus is already becoming resistant.
The new drug, TT-034, unlike anything else currently available, involves a single injection to directly destroy the hepatitis C virus and remove the infection.
The drug is currently undergoing clinical trials in the US with results expected in the coming months.
Dr Sterghios Moschos, director of Westminster Genomic Services at the Marylebone-based university, developed the innovative method by adapting state-of-the-art genome sequencing technologies to show exactly how the new drug works.
He said: “Out entirely new method to test the new drug has had a major impact on building robust confidence in this innovative therapy. For the first time ever we have shown that there are more ways to hit hepatitis C infection than previously thought possible, and this treatment works like a combination of multiple drugs.
“Our approach has helped Benitec Biopharma, to obtain permission to start clinical trials much earlier than we expected. This is unprecedented for gene therapy, particularly for a disease for which treatments already exist.”
This research was conducted in collaboration with the European Bioinformatics Institute and Benitec Biopharma.
The research paper was published on the Molecular Therapy Nucleic Acids journal.