Modeling hepatitis C virus kinetics during liver transplantation reveals the role of the liver in virus clearance
While the liver, specifically hepatocytes, are widely accepted as the main source of hepatitis C virus (HCV) production, the role of the liver/hepatocytes in clearance of circulating HCV remains unknown. Frequent HCV kinetic data were recorded and mathematically modeled from 5 liver-transplant patients throughout the anhepatic (absence of liver) phase and for 4 hours post-reperfusion. During the anhepatic phase, HCV remained at pre-anhepatic levels (n=3) or declined (n=2) with t1/2~1h. Immediately post-reperfusion, virus declined in a biphasic manner in 4 patients consisting of a rapid decline (t1/2=5min) followed by a slower decline (t1/2=67min). Consistent with the majority of patients in the anhepatic phase, when we monitored HCV clearance at 37°C from culture medium in the absence/presence of chronically infected hepatoma cells that were inhibited from secreting HCV, the HCV t1/2 in cell culture was longer in the absence of chronically HCV-infected cells. The results suggest that the liver plays a major role in the clearance of circulating HCV and that hepatocytes may be involved.