The research for hepatitis C virus (HCV) has long delayed by missing of in vitro culture system. Since the development of replicon system, a replication system of subgenomic HCV RNAs in a hepatoma cell line, has been reported, many virological and clinical findings have been discovered. Recently, in addition of subgenomic replication system, hepatitis C virus full-length RNA replication has been possible, and a few cell culture systems producing viral particles have been produced. These developments enabled us to investigate the life cycle or intracellular circumstance of HCV production. By screening of newly synthesized drugs with this replicon system, several possible medicines have been established and clinical researches are now running. Among them, VX950 and SCH503034 are nearest to clinical use. Other possible agents for reducing viral replication such as cyclophyllin inhibitors, inhibitors of sphingomyelin synthesis, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, or RNA-dependent RNA polymerase inhibitors have been also investigated. Furthermore the mechanism for development of hepatocellular carcinoma in the HCV infected liver has been vigorously studied using the HCV replicon system.
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