Hepatitis C is a serious global health problem, with up to 200 million people worldwide infected every year and more than 600,000 lives lost. It’s caused by a virus that can only grow in liver cells, causing liver disease, cirrhosis and, in some cases, cancer. In order to find new ways of treating or even preventing hepatitis C infection, scientists are taking a closer look at how the virus hides and moves inside liver cells. Intriguingly, they’ve found that that virus particles like to hide in fatty droplets inside the cells (the yellow circles in this fluorescence microscope image of human liver cells), masking them from the immune system and helping them to multiply. A gene called ABHD5 – which is faulty in people with a rare fat storage disease called Chanarin-Dorfman syndrome – is involved in assembling these fatty virus-filled droplets, and could be a useful pointer towards future anti-viral therapies.
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