The RESIST team led by Professor Dr. Thomas Pietschmann at TWINCORE – Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research has improved a liver cell model to investigate the life cycle of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and also the disease development caused by this virus in more detail. HCV and the human host cell interaction and their impact on both acute and chronic infections as well as the mechanisms of innate immune control can be studied using the adapted cell model. The team published the findings in the high-ranking journal GUT. The first author is Dr. Arnaud Carpentier.

This liver cell model is based on “hepatocyte-like cells” (HLC) derived from human stem cells. The HLCs resemble authentic liver cells and function in a similar way. Until now, this model has allowed the hepatitis C virus to replicate only to a limited extent. By using a highly replicating virus, the scientists could significantly improve the efficiency of this model. They were able to show that the HLC’s innate immune response is comparable to that of the primary adult liver cells, a critical feature missing in the widely used cell culture models based on transformed cell lines. “Cell models like these may help to discover new principles that govern the highly variable outcomes of HCV infection, thereby instructing personalised infection medicine,” says Dr. Carpentier.