Collaborative research between Washington University School of Medicine and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine has recently shown that the Zika virus’ lethality can be maneuvered to kill malignant cancer cells in the brain.
The Zika virus causes microcephaly, a birth defect resulting in an abnormally small head size compared to that of other babies of the same age. This ability of the virus to destroy brain cells was reoriented by the researchers in an effort to develop a potential cure for the most common form of brain cancer, glioblastoma. Approximately 12,000 people are diagnosed with glioblastoma every year in the US.
The notion of using a virus infamous for causing brain impairment to treat a brain disease may seem paradoxical. However, the researchers introduced mutations that weaken the virus’ defense system, restricting its activity to tumor cells that have weak antiviral defense, while leaving normal brain cells unharmed.
The findings of the research have been published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.