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Welcome to the Gallay Laboratory

Host Factors and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Replication

An estimated 170 million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). 10-20% of these will develop cirrhosis and 1-5% will develop hepatocellular carcinoma. The only currently approved therapy is weekly injection with pegylated interferon and daily oral ribavirin for 6-12 months. The therapy is associated with severe side effects and results in sustained viral clearance in only 50% of all patients. There is therefore a high need to develop new therapies with better efficacy and tolerability. A main goal in our laboratory is to identify new therapeutical targets in the HCV replication cycle.

We recently identified a family of host factors, which are critical for HCV replication – the cyclophilins. Cyclophilins are host proteins, which are abundantly expressed in all eukaryotic cells, but whose cellular functions are poorly delineated. Supporting the notion that cyclophilins govern HCV replication, a couple of small compounds, which neutralize cyclophilins called cyclophilin inhibitors are currently tested in clinical trials and showed promising safe and efficacious effects in HCV patients. Our current major goal in the laboratory is to understand i) why and how HCV exploits cyclophilins to replicate in humans; ii) how cyclophilins assist HCV; and iii) the mechanisms of action of this novel class of promising anti-HCV agents - the cyclophilin inhibitors. These studies should not only provide new tools to fight this prime threat to humans – HCV – but also should shed light on the true cellular functions of cyclophilins.

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