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A researcher at the University of Navarra is studying new strategies for treating the Hepatitis C virus

Aintzane Zabaleta Azpiroz has focused on therapeutic vaccines intended for treating those already suffering this disease

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FOTO: Manuel Castells
24/10/07 21:15 Mª Pilar Huarte

Aintzane Zabaleta Azpiroz, a biologist at the Center for Applied Medical Research of the University of Navarra (CIMA), focused her doctoral studies on new strategies for fighting the Hepatitis C virus, based on treatments and vaccines derived from cellular therapy methods.

This contagious disease, which affects 170 million personas, especially in underdeveloped countries, does not have, according to the new Ph.D., "a definitive cure, and causes a drop in expected lifespan of between 20 and 30 years." In order to advance in the discovery of more effective treatments, this young scientist analyzed the alterations provoked by certain viral proteins in the immune system: "We have identified which elements of the virus produce a diminished response in the immune system, as well as the lines that need to be studied more deeply in order to improve our current antiviral therapy".

Her research was directed by Dr. Pablo Sarobe, and focused on therapeutic vaccines -those manufactured in order to treat those who already have the disease- "in order to treat this chronic illness, which over the years produces cirrhosis and liver tumors, and which can cause the death of the patient," stated the biologist.

Various research lines at the CIMA

The discoveries of this specialist have already been tested in animal models and cell cultures, "which gives us new hopes for its clinical application in humans, although human testing will not take place until the treatment has passed a rigorous analysis of its risks and benefits."

In addition to the study undertaken by Aintzane Zabaleta, in the Center for Applied Medical Research of the University of Navarra (CIMA), two laboratories of genetic therapy and hepatology are involved in the search for therapies and vaccines against Hepatitis C. Directed by Jesús Prieto, this is the objective of the researchers Rafael Aldabe, Esther Larrea, José Ignacio Riezu, Puri Fortes, Juanjo Lasarte and Francisco Borrás, among others.

Currently, Aintzane Zabaleta is performing postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Washington D.C., where she continues her studies of this viral disease.

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