Startling new research has found Zika may be able to fight brain cancer cells in adults. The bold idea was discovered by Jeremy Rich and his team from the University of California; they found that the Zika virus attacks glioblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer.
Early results show that mice who would normally die within a month have their life expectancies more than doubled once they became infected with the Zika virus.
The team found that when glioblastoma tumors were exposed to Zika virus, it destroyed the cancer stem cells. These stem cells are the deadly kind that usually kill a person, which can occur when they become resistant to all possible treatments.
Zika virus is potentially life-threatening and extremely damaging to mothers expecting a baby. The disease is known to cause abnormally small heads in newborns, cause brain cancer in the child, or even force the mother to miscarry.
“The virus does this because, unlike most microbes, Zika can pass from blood into the brain, where it infects and kills stem cells, having severe effects on developing brains,” New Scientist states. “But this ability to infect brain stem cells may prove useful for fighting deadly brain cancers, many of which are caused by mutated stem cells,” the website adds.
Research also yielded further positive results, because when the team tested the virus on ordinary adult brain cells unaffected with brain cancer they did not become infected. The research also proved that the virus was not damaging to adults.
The next stage of the research is for the team to test their laboratory findings on live subjects, mice infected with glioblastomas. Early results show that mice who would normally die within a month have their life expectancies more than doubled once they became infected with the Zika virus.
Scientists have yet to prove how their research can translate to humans. However, they plan on modifying the structure of the virus to ensure that it can be used in a safe manner to avoid any potential negative outbreaks or problems.
However, Harry Bulstrode from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom revealed that his team will test the unaltered Zika virus in the UK. He states that past results prove that the disease is quite harmless to adults, and that as long as it is not administered to pregnant women then there is really no cause for alarm.
“This is an area of utmost need – we are talking about a uniformly fatal disease,” he said in an interview with New Scientist. “If it improves survival at all that would be an enormous result.”
Although scientists do not expect this method to develop into a cure for cancer, they do believe it can at least prolong life expectancy and improve the quality of life of those suffering from brain cancer.
These medical advances show that bold actions taken by scientists like those from Cambridge and the University of California will continue to push the medical field forward to find cures for life-threatening diseases.