The wonders of medicine never cease to amaze. What can be deadly in some instances can bring relief in others.
Case in point — the Zika virus.
New research by US scientists has revealed that the global health threat, Zika, may selectively be able infect and kill hard-to-treat cancerous cells in adult brains.
Lab tests showed that Zika injections shrank aggressive tumors in fully grown mice, yet left other brain cells unscathed.
According to the report published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, experts believe Zika virus could potentially be injected into the brain at the same time as surgery to remove life-threatening tumors.
While human trials are still a way off, The Zika treatment appears to work on human cell samples in the lab.
There are many different types of brain cancer. Glioblastomas are the most common in adults and one of the trickiest to treat.
Common treatments include radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery – though even they may not be enough to remove these invasive cancers. But the latest research, in living mice and donated human brain tissue samples, shows Zika therapy can kill cells that tend to be resistant to current treatments.
Different, healthy stem cells, are found in abundance in baby brains, which probably explains why regular Zika can be so damaging to infants, say the researchers. Adult brains, however, have very few stem cells. This means Zika treatment should destroy only the cancer-causing brain stem cells without causing much collateral damage.
As a precautionary measure, scientists from Washington University School of Medicine and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have begun modifying the virus to make it tamer than regular Zika.
Researcher Dr. Michael Diamond is confident that we’re on the precipice of change in medicine.
“Once we add a few more changes, I think it’s going to be impossible for the virus to overcome them and cause disease,” he said. Adding, “it looks like there’s a silver lining to Zika. This virus that targets cells that are very important for brain growth in babies, we could use that now to target growing tumors.”
He hopes to begin human trials within 18 months.
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