Zika virus may be key to curing deadly brain cancer
U.S. researchers have found that the deadly Zika virus could help treat an equally deadly form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.
ST. LOUIS — The Zika virus caused an epidemic of microcephaly in South America, but now scientists say it may be the key to defeating a deadly and hard-to-treat form of brain cancer.
According to a press release from the Washington University School of Medicine, glioblastoma is an aggressive brain cancer typically treated using surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. But cancer stem cells often survive the treatment, and go on to produce new tumors.
The ability to create new cells is also seen in neuroprogenitor cells, which Zika targets and destroys. This prompted scientists to hypothesize that it may also be able to target glioblastoma stem cells.
Scientists infected tumors with one of two Zika virus strains, and found that both destroyed stem cells while bypassing other tumor cells.
Mice were then injected with either a saltwater placebo or Zika virus cells. Researchers found that those infected with Zika had smaller tumors two weeks later.
Mutations were also introduced into the Zika cells as an additional safety feature, rendering them still able to destroy cancer stem cells, but also easier to eliminate from the host body.
The findings indicate that Zika infection can be used to complement conventional treatment to eradicate the cancer. But though promising, the research still has a long way to go before it can be safely given the green light for human trials.
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