The medical world may be one step closer to an affordable, effective therapeutic vaccine for hepatitis C virus (HCV), according to a new study appearing in the latest issue of Stem Cells Translational Medicine. According to a release issued on August 5, 2016, the study, by scientists at Second Military Medical University in Shanghai, China, showed how exosomes secreted from umbilical mesenchymal stem cells (uMSC) efficiently suppressed HCV infection. Chronic hepatitis C is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems. Worldwide, 700,000 people die each year from HCV-related liver diseases, according to the World Health Organization. While newly developed antiviral medicines could cure approximately 90 percent of those with HCV infection, access to diagnosis and treatment is limited and there is currently no vaccine to prevent it. There are other issues, also, according to Zhongtian Qi, Ph.D., M.D., the SCTM study’s lead investigator. “Though the development of these antivirals has improved the response rate in HCV patients, new more effective anti-HCV agents that also have better tolerance and cheaper production costs are still urgently needed,” he said. His research team wanted to see if a cell-based therapy might provide the answer. “Cell-based therapy is of great interest to us because of exosomes, miniscule fluid-filled sacs that can transfer information and thereby affect immune responses to specific antigens,” Dr. Qi explained. Research into exosomes roles in pathogen infection is still in the early stages, but reports have shown that exosomes, among other desirable properties, can shuttle protective host molecules between cells. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) produce high amounts of exosomes. Collecting MSCs from umbilical cord is a relatively low-cost, non-invasive procedure – the uMSCs that Dr.
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