Gene therapies for hepatitis C virus
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a leading cause of chronic hepatitis and infects approximately three to four million people per year, about 170 million infected people in total, making it one of the major global health problems. In a minority of cases HCV is cleared spontaneously, but in most of the infected individuals infection progresses to a chronic state associated with high risk to develop liver cirrhosis, hepatocellular cancer, or liver failure. The treatment of HCV infection has evolved over the years. Interferon (IFN)-α in combination with ribavirin has been used for decades as standard therapy. More recently, a new standard-ofcare treatment has been approved based on a triple combination with either HCV protease inhibitor telaprevir or boceprevir. In addition, various options for alloral, IFN-free regimens are currently being evaluated. Despite substantial improvement of sustained virological response rates, some intrinsic limitations of these new direct-acting antivirals, including serious side effects, the risk of resistance development and high cost, urge the development of alternative or additional therapeutic strategies. Gene therapy represents a feasible alternative treatment. Small RNA technology, including RNA interference (RNAi) techniques and antisense approaches, is one of the potentially promising ways to investigate viral and host cell factors that are involved in HCV infection and replication. With this, newly developed gene therapy regimens will be provided to treat HCV. In this chapter, a comprehensive overview guides you through the current developments and applications of RNAi and microRNA-based gene therapy strategies in HCV treatment.