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19 May, 2017, 18:12
It's been used to test pregnant women whose babies can develop brain damage if the mothers are infected with Zika.
Zika virus infection in pregnancy causes severe disability in babies by attacking stem cells in the developing brain.
Glioblastoma cells seem to be the best test subject for this as they so closely resemble those which can be seen in the brain that is still in the process of development.
It's being funded by Cancer Research UK and could potentially lead to new treatments for glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive form of brain tumour. "We identified a small molecule that inhibits the Zika virus protease, and show that it blocks viral propagation in human cells and in mice", said lead researcher Alexey Terskikh, Associate Professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) in San Diego, California, US. It is hoped that Zika could be introduced to the cells and destroy them in the same way it now destroys the developing brains of fetuses.
Zika, a mosquito-borne virus reported in 70 countries and territories, is responsible for millions of cases of fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The results of the experiments will suggest how the virus is targeting the cells and if the testing can be progressed to a more complex stage.
In order for Zika virus to have this effect, it has to pass the blood brain barrier which is very important when it comes to the treatment of brain tumors. It's impossible to tell how long it will be before the first results.
Should tests be successful, the research can be taken forward and could, eventually, lead to a new treatment for glioblastoma-a condition diagnosed in 2,300 people in the United Kingdom every year, and from which less than five percent of patients survive for five years or more. "If the scientists do find out that Zika could be a promising treatment for glioblastoma, however, perhaps this knowledge could be applied to the treatment of other brain tumors".
Concerns about Zika virus were also heightened following news that the virus could be transmitted sexually in addition to being spread by mosquitoes.
While the Montgomery County case is the only one of its kind at the moment, the Farm Bureau tagged Dallas and Tarrant counties as two of only five Texas counties with active West Nile colonies this year.
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