The path of finding the cure of viral infection has always been hindered by a property of viral cells that allows it to quickly adapt to the host environment. What happens if the same virus acts as a potent lifesaving therapy. Zika virus is responsible for infecting brain cells in foetuses while still in womb leading to a condition called microcephaly which causes stunted brain growth

Previously, it was a cause for concern but when efforts were made, the number of cases reduced. It did not have much effect on adults, as a result, it has now been taken into consideration for treating Glioblastoma, a severe malignant brain tumor.[1]

IEBS - Zika Fuelled Immunity

Glioblastoma originates from the astrocytes that are the star-shaped cells and work as a supportive tissue of the brain. This kind of tumor tends to be malignant quite early due to the availability of a large network of blood vessels and as these cells are stem cells they reproduce quickly. Latter property of the tumor is exactly why Zika virus is ideal to treat this kind of a brain tumor. It targets the stem cells ignoring the mature cells and therefore being ideal to kill the tumor cells.[2]

Research has been carried out by Washington University, School of Medicine and University of California wherein tests have been done using modified Zika virus on mice with brain tumors. The test cases exposed to virus lived longer.[3] Experiments have been also being tried out on human brain samples in a lab. On directly applying treatment to cancerous cells, it caused them to die whereas, weakened or non-virulent virus treatment when combined with chemotherapy treatment worked better with less side effects.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/behindtheheadlines/news/2017-09-07-zika-virus-may-be-useful-in-treating-brain-tumours/

[2] https://www.curetoday.com/articles/zika-virus-explored-for-brain-cancer-treatment


[3] https://medicine.wustl.edu/news/zika-virus-kills-brain-cancer-stem-cells/

 

Author: Dr. Neeraj Maurya & Mr. Ravi Shanker