A harmful virus that can cause devastating brain damage in babies could offer a surprising new treatment for adult brain tumors, according to US scientists.

So far, Zika has been seen as a threat to global health - not a cure.

But the recent research shows that the virus can selectively infundinate and kill difficult to treat cancer cells in adult brains.
Zika injections shrunk aggressive tumors in fully developed mice, but they left other brain cells intact.

Tests on humans are still far away, but experts believe that the Zika virus could be injected into the brain at the same time to surgery to eliminate fatal tumors, reports the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Zika treatment appears to work on human cell samples in the laboratory.

There are different types of brain tumors. Glioblastomas are the most common in adults and one of the most delicate to treat.

They develop rapidly and diffuse, which means that they spread in the brain, making it difficult to see where the tumor ends and the healthy tissue begins.

Radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery are not sufficient to eliminate these invasive cancers.

But the recent research in living mice and given human brain tissue samples shows that the Zika therapy can kill cells that tend to be resistant to current treatments.

It is believed that these glioblastoma stem cells continue to grow and divide and produce new tumor cells, even after aggressive medical treatment.

Various healthy stem cells are found abundantly in baby brains, which are likely to explain why regular Zika can be so harmful to infants, say the researchers.

Adult brains, however, have very few stem cells. This means that Zika treatment only destroy brain stem cells causing cancer without causing much collateral damage.

As an additional safety precaution, the team at the University of Washington School of Medicine and the San Diego School of Medicine at the University of California have already begun to modify the virus to make it more modest than ordinary Zika.

Researcher Dr. Michael Diamond said, "As soon as we add some changes, I think it will be impossible for the virus to overcome them and cause diseases.

"It seems that there is a silver diet in Zika, which is aimed at cells that are very important for brain growth in babies, which we can now apply to growing tumors."

He hopes to start human experiments within 18 months.
The use of viruses to fight cancer is not a new idea, but the use of Zika as a weapon of choice is.

British scientists from the University of Cambridge are starting similar experiments with Zika.

Dr. Catherine Pickworth of Cancer Research UK said: "This promising research shows that a modified version of the Zika virus can attack brain tumor cells in the lab.

"This could lead one day to treat new treatments for this type of cancer particularly difficult".

  • Zika is a virus that can catch people when bitten by an infected mosquito
  • Most people have little to no symptoms but the disease can pose a serious threat to babies in the mother's body
  • Infected infants were born with unusually small heads and underdeveloped brains - a condition known as microcephaly
  • The infection is associated with severe congenital malformations in nearly 30 countries
  • Although Zika is no longer "an international medical emergency", the World Health Organization says that it closely monitors the infection



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