New Delhi: Scientists from Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) are developing a vaccine for preventing a hepatitis C virus infection which has shown promising results in pre-clinical trials, according to a study in Vaccine.

The vaccine was able to produce antibodies that can neutralize the virus in the vaccinated host, in this case mice, and also showed good cellular immune responses, the study claimed.

Saumitra Das and his team from the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology, in collaboration with Anjali Anoop Karande’s lab at the Department of Biochemistry, developed a vaccine that is a molecular cocktail of virus-like particles (VLPs) that imitate the hepatitis C virus and a bio-engineered adenovirus strain containing the core and proteins on the surface of the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

“We were able to generate vaccines using both systems, compare the two and demonstrate that a vaccine developed in a mammalian system is better and can provide better inhibition of HCV," said Anuj Kumar, one of the researchers involved in developing the vaccine.

As part of the research funded by the Department of Biotechnology, a few doses of the VLPs are given at the first stage and then the bioengineered adenovirus is delivered.

An adenovirus is a class of viruses that is commonly used to deliver foreign DNA into human cells. So for the vaccine, the researchers inserted the structural genes of the HCV into the adenovirus so that it would incite the immune system to produce neutralizing antibodies against the virus.

Again, the antibodies against the HCV shell proteins would be stored and will make the body immune in case HCV enters the body in the near future.

“The use of the VLP along with the recombinant adenovirus boost has shown exciting results... Not only was the vaccine able to produce antibodies that can neutralize the virus in the vaccinated host, it also generated good cellular immune responses, which makes this an excellent vaccine candidate," said an IISc release.

The next stage of research will involve testing in higher animals before it reaches clinical trials. Several pre-clinical trials of virus-like particle-based vaccine strategies are in progress throughout the world, but this vaccine may work against HCV genotype 3a which is the predominant strain of the virus found in the Indian sub-continent.

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