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Entry point for hepatitis C infection identified

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A molecule embedded in the membrane of human liver cells that aids in cholesterol absorption also allows the entry of hepatitis C virus, the first step in hepatitis C infection, according to research at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine.

The cholesterol receptor offers a promising new target for anti-viral therapy, for which an approved drug may already exist, say the researchers, whose findings were reported online in advance of publication in Nature Medicine.

An estimated 4.1 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C virus, or HCV, which attacks the liver and leads to inflammation, according to the National Institutes of Health. Most people have no symptoms initially and may not know they have the infection until liver damage shows up decades later during routine medical tests.

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