Scientists have identified a possible treatment for hepatitis B, the world's most common serious liver infection and a leading cause of liver cancer.
By injecting mice with molecules that interfere with the hepatitis B virus's replication, the researchers reduced viral levels by 90 per cent.
The researchers, who published their work in Nature Biotechnology, injected particles of a special type of RNA (genetic material similar to DNA), to stop the virus from replicating.
By encasing the RNA in fat-like particles, the team protected it from being broken down in the mice's blood. The protection meant it could reach the liver and the hepatitis B virus.
Although the research is still in its early stages, Mark Thursz of the British Association for the Study of the Liver calls the use of this technique in a living animal "a significant step".
The scientists plan to test the treatment in people early next year.