An excellent discovery was made by a group of researchers from the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technical University of Munich. For the first time, the researchers were able to defeat a chronic infection caused by the hepatitis B virus in a mouse during experiments with a T-cell therapy.
There is currently no cure for hepatitis B in humans, so much so that the virus itself is considered a global health problem by the World Health Organization, as more than 260 million people worldwide are chronically affected by it. There are currently drugs that partially limit the replication of virus cells in the liver but complete elimination of the virus from the body is currently not yet technically possible. Hepatitis B can then lead to various serious complications such as liver cancer or liver cirrhosis.
Ulrike Protzer, director of the Institute of Virology at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, one of the authors of the study, explains the results achieved: “We were able to demonstrate that T-cell therapy using new technologies presents an encouraging solution for the treatment of chronic HBV infection and liver cancer that is activated by the virus. This is because these “living drugs” are the most powerful therapy we have at our disposal at the moment.”
Describing the therapy is Karin Wisskirchen, scientist of the Ulrike Protzer group and first author of the study: the new therapy with T cells has been specifically developed as an approach to combat HBV infection and liver cancer associated with HBV. It is known that in chronically infected patients, virus-specific T-cells cannot be detected or show decreased activity. However, if patients are able to control the virus themselves, a strong T-cell response can be detected. The obvious answer is therefore to use specific T-cell viruses to compensate for this deficiency.
Experiments on mice were then conducted in collaboration with the group led by researcher Maura Dandri. During these experiments, T cells attacked only infected liver cells.