TUESDAY, Sept. 5, 2017 (HealthDay News) – The Zika virus is well known for causing damaging brain defects in babies. But what if scientists could possibility utilize that ability to accomplish something good?
Researchers report that they think they might able to harness the virus’s attraction in creating brain cells – rather than adult brain cells – as a potential treatment for a deadly type of brain cancer.
In lab and animal experiments, scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of California, San Diego, demonstrated – that the virus was able to target and destroy immature stem cell that drive the growth of a fatal and common type of brain tumor, known as a glioblastoma.
“Our study is a first step towards the development of safe and effective strains of Zika virus that could become important tools in neuro-oncology and the treatment of glioblastoma,” said study co-leader Michael Diamond, from Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis.
“However, public health concerns will need to be addressed through pre-clinical testing and evaluations of the strains’ ability to disseminate or revert to more virulent forms,” he said.
The examination is in the early stages, and experiments that look promising in animal experimentation don’t generally turnout well as in people.
The findings were published Sept. 5 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Most people with a gliobastoma die within two years of being diagnosed, researchers said.
The stem cells that fuel these tumors are hard to kill since they are able to avoid the immune system’s natural defenses. These developing cells are also resistant to existing medications, such as, chemotherapy and radiation.
Regardless of the possibility that the tumor is effectively removed, these stem cells must be destroyed to keep new tumors from developing, the study authors explained.
“It is so frustrating to treat a patient as aggressively as we know how, only to see his or her tumor recur a few months later,” study leader Milan Chheda, from Washington University School of Medicine, said in a journal news release.
“We wondered whether nature could provide a weapon to target the cells most likely responsible for this return,” Chheda said.
Zika virus identified, infected and destroyed patient-derived glioblastoma stem cells compared with other glioblastoma cell types or normal brain cells.
Analysts likewise found that a modified strain of Zika virus slowed tumor development among mice with aggressive mind tumors, drastically extending their lives.
Next, scientists tried a less harmful, naturally occurring mutant strain of Zika that is more delicate to the body’s immune response. This weakened strain of the virus was still able to specifically target and kill glioblastoma stem cells.
The effectiveness of the virus was improved when combined a chemotherapy drug, known as temozolomide, which usually has little impact on these carcinogenic cells, the researchers said.
“This effort represents the creative synthesis of three research groups with complementary expertise to attack a deadly cancer by harnessing the cause of another disease,” said study co-leader Jeremy Rich, from the University of California, San Diego, and the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute.
“Adults with Zika may suffer less damage from their infection, suggesting that this approach could be used with acceptable toxicity,” Rich said.
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