Washington: A new study has discovered how hepatitis C virus survives in the liver – helping medical scientists understand why a new antiviral drug appears to be effective against the virus.Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, working with colleagues from the University of Colorado, have found for the first time how the hepatitis C virus hijacked a small RNA molecule that regulates gene expression in human liver cells to ensure its own survival.MicroRNAs are involved in regulating the expression of genes in cells, usually by blocking the production of key proteins or by destabilizing the messenger RNAs that encode the cell’s proteins as it grows and divides.Normally they act by down regulating gene expression.The research team found that the binding of a prominent microRNA in liver cells, called miR-122, to the viral RNA results in its stabilization, promoting efficient replication of the virus genome in the liver and supporting the virus’ lifecycle.
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