NK cells in hepatitis B virus infection: a potent target for immunotherapy
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Abstract Viruses, including hepatitis B virus (HBV), are the most prevalent and infectious agents that lead to liver disease in humans. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and cirrhosis of the liver are the most serious complications arising from prolonged forms of hepatitis B. Previous studies demonstrated that patients suffering from long-term HBV infections are unable to eradicate HBV from hepatocytes completely. The mechanisms responsible for progression of these forms of infection have not yet been clarified. However, it seems that there are differences in genetic and immunological parameters when comparing patients to subjects who successfully clear HBV infections, and these may represent the causes of long-term infection. Natural killer (NK) cells, the main innate immune cells that target viral infections, play important roles in the eradication of HBV from hepatocytes. NK cells carry several stimulatory and inhibitor receptors, and binding of receptors with their ligands results in activation and suppression of NK cells, respectively. The aim of this review is to address the recent information regarding NK cell phenotype, functions and modifications in hepatitis B. This review addresses the recent data regarding the roles of NK cells as novel targets for immunotherapies that target hepatitis B infection. It also discusses the potential to reduce the risk of HCC or cirrhosis of the liver by targeting NK cells.
Archives of Virology