Experimental Virology

At TWINCORE , the Experimental Virology research group of Prof. Dr. Thomas Pietschmann researches the background of hepatitis C. The problem of researching this virus is that only humans and chimpanzees are infected and it is subsequently difficult to research on the organism itself. In order to reveal the secrets of the virus, Thomas Pietschmann has developed a cell culture model. This is comprised of human liver cells and a virus variant that reproduces particularly well in cell cultures. With this test system he and his colleagues examine how the virus manages to penetrate our liver cells and why liver cells from, for example, mice, are not receptive to the virus. The group Experimental Virology is based at the TWINCORE in Hannover.

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A liver cell infected by HCV

To be precise, viruses are carriers of a biological programme with which they are able to rewrite the metabolism of a human, animal or plant cell in a manner that enables those cells to produce new viruses a process known as the replication cycle. They are tiny, constructed from a mere protein-lipid shell with a filling of genetic material. Despite this, pathogens such as HIV or hepatitis C threaten the health of many millions of people. According to estimates of the World Health Organisation (WHO), up to 170 million people worldwide have come into contact with the hepatitis C virus and around 100 to 130 million of those are chronically infected with it.

A frequent consequence of this is inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), which limits organ function and may lead to liver cancer. Only around two thirds of all those infected have been able to be successfully treated with medicines so far, this treatment may take up to a year and is accompanied by severe side effects.

In addition, scientists at the department are also investigating how the individual virus components function and interact with components of the liver cell in order to form progeny viruses. This has enabled new weak points of the virus to be discovered, which the researchers can exploit in order to disrupt the multiplication of the virus: in this respect, collections of natural substances are also being investigated for their effectiveness against the virus. The search is targeting substances that block the infiltration, multiplication or release of the viruses.

Researchers are working on new therapy options for this worldwide-occurring disease in several twinning projects with the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research and the Hannover Medical School.

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Audio Podcast

  • Hepatitis-C-Infektion - eine Frage der Stabilität. Jürgen Wehland Preis für Dr. Eike SteinmannFür seine herausragende Forschung als Nachwuchswissenschaftler erhält Dr. Eike Steinmann den Jürgen Wehland Preis des HZI. Er hat die Stabiltität des Hepatitis-C-Virus in Lösungen und auf Oberflächen erforscht - mit überraschenden Ergebnissen. Hören Sie selbst...
  • Kleine Moleküle ganz groß – Mit Naturstoffen gegen Hepatitis CMit weltweit 130 Millionen Infizierten ist Hepatitis C eine der häufigsten Infektionskrankheiten. Die Therapien, die es derzeit gibt, sind langwierig, haben starke Nebenwirkungen und helfen nicht jedem Patienten. Florenz Sasse vom Braunschweiger Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung und Thomas Pietschmann vom TWINCORE in Hannover suchen gemeinsam nach neuen Wirkstoffen gegen das Hepatitis C-Virus. Hören Sie hier von ihren ersten Treffern und folgen Sie Florenz Sasse zu einer Bibliothek der anderen Art…
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