- 1Department of Immunology and Microbiology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92109, USA.
Antibody responses in hepatitis C virus (HCV) have been a rather mysterious research topic for many investigators working in the field. Chronic HCV infection is often associated with dysregulation of immune functions particularly in B cells, leading to abnormal lymphoproliferation or the production of autoantibodies that exacerbate inflammation and extrahepatic diseases. When considering the antiviral function of antibody, it was difficult to endorse its role in HCV protection, whereas T-cell response has been shown unequivocally critical for natural recovery. Recent breakthroughs in the study of HCV and antigen-specific antibody responses provide important insights into viral vulnerability to antibodies and the immunogenetic and structural properties of the neutralizing antibodies. The new knowledge reinvigorates HCV vaccine research by illuminating a new path for the rational design of vaccine antigens to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies for protection.