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Ground glass hepatocytes provide targets for therapy or prevention of hepatitis B virus-related hepatocellular carcinoma

1 Department of Biotechnology, Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taiwan
2 Department of Pathology, National Cheng Kung University Hospital, College of Medicine, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan
3 Graduate Institute of Biomedical Sciences, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan
4 Organ Transplantation Center, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan
5 Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan
6 Department of Medical Laboratory Science and Biotechnology, College of Medicine, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan

Ground glass hepatocyte (GGH) represents a histologic hallmark of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and is characterized by the accumulation of pre-S mutant surface antigens in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In the past decade, GGHs have been recognized as pre-neoplastic lesions of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The accumulation of pre-S mutant protein in ER may induce a misfolded protein response or ER stress signals with activation of VEGF/Akt/mTOR and COX-2/NF-κB signals, leading to oxidative DNA damage, aneuploidy, and genomic instability. Molecular studies revealed clonal HBV DNA integration in type II GGHs which continue to express and secrete surface antigens, representing the sustained surface antigens in the serum after NA antiviral treatment. The persistence of GGHs in the liver after anti-viral therapy not only constitute the challenge to eliminate HBV infection but also carry the high risk to develop HCC. DNA chip and ELISA kit are designing to detect the pre-S mutants in serum. Novel or second generation anti-HBV drugs are under phase II development and include the combination of anti-virals, immunomodulators, agents for host DNA damage, and siRNA to target at the transcription of HBsAg gene in cccDNA or integrated HBV DNA. In the past years, we explored the possibility to provide drugs or natural agents targeting at ER stress signals in GGHs to prevent HCC development. In a transgenic mice model of pre-S mutant and HBx, a combination of silymarin and resveratrol targeting at mTOR and NF-κB signals could reduce a 80% of HCC development. In a pilot clinical trial, liposomal curcumin (Meriva®) combined with anti-virals and immumodulators P1101 have been designed and attempted to eliminate the serum surface antigen and hence the recurrence of HCC after surgical resection. Therefore, the detection of pre-S mutants in serum or GGHs in the liver should provide rational target design for therapy or prevention of HCC in these high risk patients of chronic HBV infection.
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