Infectious Diseases / Pathogens

We’re Investigating the origins, evolution, and fundamental biology of pathogens. Our research interests include hepatitis C and E. coli.

Hepatitis C and miRR-122 Gene Research

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects over 3 percent of the world’s population, including more than 3 million people in the United States. HCV infections are on the rise among young people and are a leading cause of death among baby boomers. New treatments are available, but their extremely high prices make them prohibitive for widespread use.

Our team has uncovered new insights as to how HCV can evade emerging therapeutics, as well as how the virus may cause liver cancer. Previous research has found that in order to infect cells, HCV requires the cells to express the gene miR-122. Drugs that inhibit miR-122 were shown to reduce HCV replication. However, our scientists discovered that HCV could evolve specific genetic mutations, allowing it to replicate in cells even when the miR-122 gene was inhibited. They also discovered that the HCV virus itself hijacks the miR-122 gene, diminishing its normal activity in liver cells. Since this gene is known to be a potent tumor repressor, the findings suggest that HCV robs cells of their natural defenses against uncontrolled growth. This outcome may contribute to cancers that arise from chronic HCV infection.

These findings may contribute to the development of more effective of HCV drugs, as well as personalized treatment for patients. In the future, we may also be able to shed light on the link between HCV and the onset of cancer. This study shows us that there are broader implications for this class of microRNA genes and their interaction with targets, which may be useful for a number of diseases in addition to viral hepatitis.

Our Published Research

Featured below is some of the hepatitis and E.coli research published by our scientists.


”Hepatitis C virus genetics affects miR-122 requirements and response to miR-122 inhibitors.” Read the full study

Gen News Highlight

“Hepatitis C Antiviral Resistance Revealed.” Read more