London: Researchers have now identified the entry point of hepatitis C virus - the first step leading to the chronic infection- thus opening the door to a number of possibilities for therapeutics.According to the research at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, a molecule embedded in the membrane of human liver cells that aids in cholesterol absorption also allows the entry of hepatitis C virus.The cholesterol receptor offers a promising new target for anti-viral therapy, for which an approved drug may already exist, say the researchers.Previous studies showed that cholesterol was somehow involved in HCV infection. The UIC researchers suspected that a receptor called NPC1L1, known to help maintain cholesterol balance might also be transporting the virus into the cell.The receptor is common in the gut of many species -- but is found on liver cells only in humans and chimpanzees, said Susan Uprichard, assistant professor in medicine and microbiology and immunology and principal investigator in the study.These primates, she said, are the only animals that can be infected by HCV.
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