Hepatitis C, a virus that can cause liver failure or cancer, infects about 200 million people worldwide. Existing drugs are not always effective, so many patients end up on long liver-transplant waiting lists.
One reason that no better treatment options exist is the lack of a suitable liver tissue model to test new drugs in the laboratory. But now, researchers from MIT and Rockefeller University have successfully grown hepatitis C viruses in otherwise healthy liver cells.
In the new tissue model, liver cells are precisely arranged on a specially patterned plate and surrounded by supportive cells, allowing them to live and function for four to six weeks. The cells can be infected with hepatitis C for two to three weeks, giving researchers the chance to study the cells’ responses to different drugs.