Published online May 7, 2007. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v13.i17.2442
Revised: February 2, 2007
Accepted: March 12, 2007
Published online: May 7, 2007
Since the discovery of HCV in 1989, the lack of a cell culture system has hampered research progress on this important human pathogen. No robust system has been obtained by empiric approaches, and HCV cell culture remained hypothetical until 2005. The construction of functional molecular clones has served as a starting point to reconstitute a consensus infectious cDNA that was able to transcribe infectious HCV RNAs as shown by intrahepatic inoculation in a chimpanzee. Other consensus clones have been selected and established in a human hepatoma cell line as replicons, i.e. self-replicating subgenomic or genomic viral RNAs. However, these replicons did not support production of infectious virus. Interestingly, some full-length replicons could be established without adaptive mutations and one of them was able to replicate at very high levels and to release virus particles that are infectious in cell culture and in vivo. This new cell culture system represents a major breakthrough in the HCV field and should enable a broad range of basic and applied studies to be achieved.