About four years ago, a virus from Polynesia arrived in South America and generated panic to the public. It caused babies to be born with severe brain damage, making it most dangerous in pregnant women.
Zika is carried by a mosquito species and can eventually be passed on sexually. It can lead to microcephaly--abnormally small heads-and other neurological problems in babies of those infected pregnant mothers. This even spiked the rate of miscarriage. Blocking this has been so difficult as the virus can rummage through the blood and into the brain where it infects and kills stem cells. This creates massive and severe effects on developing brains.
However, Jeremy Rich at the University of California, San Diego, and team might just have found a way to make this an advantage-- harnessing its ability to infect brain stem cells to fight deadly brain tumours/cancers in adults.
First, they've tested the virus on human glioblastoma-- the most common kind of brain cancer yet one of the most difficult to treat--samples grown in a dish. People with this type of cancer usually lives for only up to a year upon diagnosis. Results shows that, indeed, Zika destroyed the mutated stem cells.
When tested next on ordinary brain cells (without cancer), no tissue were infected; possibly explaining why it rarely affects adults negatively.
To test this further, they've implanted mice with glioblastomas and injected them with Zika. Usually, it would only take the cancer a month to kill the mice but with the virus, four out of nine mice lived for more than two months.
How the virus would react on real humans, however, is still unknown for testing it in people with brain cancer can cause trouble. Researchers say they have to modify the virus first into a much safer one before it can be tested again as a possible treatment for brain cancer.
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