With the aid of modified short RNAs, researchers participating in a collaborative venture between Helmholtz Zentrum München, the Technical University of Munich and the University of Bonn have succeeded in blocking hepatitis B virus replication while simultaneously stimulating an immune response. The study has been published in the renowned medical journal Gastroenterology.
The team, headed by Professor Ulrike Protzer, Director of the Institutes for Virology at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technical University of Munich, worked together with Dr. Hendrik Poeck from the Klinikum rechts der Isar at the Technical University of Munich and Professor Gunther Hartmann from the University of Bonn to develop a new treatment option for chronic hepatitis B. The study, which was published in Gastroenterology, describes the use of specially modified siRNAs*. The designer RNA fragments inhibit replication of the hepatitis B virus in the body but they also have another function: they stimulate the innate immune system, enabling it to attack the virus more efficiently.
“Our study shows that the combination of both functions– virus inhibition and immune stimulation – in one molecule is much more effective than a combination of the corresponding mono-functional nucleic acids,” says Professor Ulrike Protzer. “With this approach, we now – for the first time – have the prospect of being able to remove the hepatitis B virus completely from the body, even in the event of a chronic infection.”
If Hepatitis B is chronic, it can be controlled by common medications but it is rarely cured. With about 375 million chronic carriers worldwide, hepatitis B is one of the most important viral diseases of humans, setting them at high risk to develop liver failure or hepatic cancer. The objective of the Helmholtz Zentrum München is to understand the mechanisms that cause common diseases and to develop new approaches with regard to their diagnosis, therapy and prevention.
* siRNA (short interfering Ribonucleic Acids) are short RNA fragments that cause sequentially analogous mRNAs to be broken down rather than being translated into protein. This can, for example, significantly reduce viral replication.
Ebert G et al (2011) , 5′ Triphosphorylated small interfering RNAs control replication of hepatitis B virus and induce an interferon response in human liver cells and mice. Gastroenterology 141:696 Link to publication
The Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Centre for Environmental Health, aims to develop personalised medicine for the diagnosis, therapy and prevention of common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To that end, it examines the interaction of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. The Helmholtz Zentrum München is based in Neuherberg in the north of Munich and has about 1,900 staff members. It is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 17 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centres with a total of 31,000 staff. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de
The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is one Europe’s leading technical universities. It has 460 professors, 7,500 staff members (including staff at the Klinikum rechts der Isar) and 26,000 students. Its main areas of emphasis are the engineering sciences, the natural sciences, the life sciences, medicine and economic sciences. In 2006, after receiving numerous awards, it was declared a Center of Excellence by the German Science Council and the German Research Community. TUM’s international network also includes a branch campus in Singapore. As an entrepreneurial university, TUM is committed to the principle of competitive excellence.
Contact for media representatives
Sven Winkler, Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health, Ingolstädter Landstrasse 1 85764 Neuherberg – Phone.: +49 89-3187-3946 – Fax: +49 89-3187-3324 – email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Ulrike Protzer, Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health and the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Institute for Virology, Trogerstr. 30, 81675 München – Phone: +49 89-4140-6821 – Fax: +49 89-4140-6823 – email: email@example.com