The risks of Zika virus, which are responsible for a silent disease, are already known, including the numerous cases of microcephaly in babies. Now, what UNICAMP researchers have been investigating is how this virus can be used beneficially by the human organism, such as in the fight against tumors.
Led by university professor Rodrigo Ramos Catharino, the researchers found that this agent could be a weapon against prostate cancer. Through experiments done with the virus in vitro, Scientists realized that Zika can inhibit tumor cell proliferation even after being inactivated by high temperatures, as reported in an article in the journal Scientific Reports.
“The next step of the investigation involves animal testing. If the results are positive, we intend to seek partnerships with companies to enable clinical trials, ”says Catharino. If proven in animals, the discovery will pave the way for new research and different therapeutic applications for the virus.
Studies show that Zika virus can inhibit prostate cancer development
In 2015, research began to understand how the virus could be exploited when the direct relationship between the Zika epidemic and the increase in microcephaly cases in the Northeast was discovered. Studies then observed that this virus infected and destroyed neural progenitor cells, those that in developing fetuses give rise to various types of brain cells.
From this data, Catharino and the UNICAMP research group tested Zika virus on the most common and aggressive type of central nervous system cancer in adults, glioblastoma, with positive results discovered in the laboratory. These responses were also successfully repeated in animal model.
"As sexual transmission of Zika and the virus's preference for infecting reproductive cells has also been confirmed, we have now decided to test its effect against prostate cancer," explained Jeany Delafiori, a doctoral student under Catharino's guidance.
In the new UNICAMP study, Zika virus was heated and inactivated through high temperatures to inhibit its potential to cause infection. Even so, it had an inhibitory effect on cancer. The researchers' analysis also showed 21 markers capable of describing how the virus affects tumor cell metabolism and inhibits its proliferation.
Source: Fapesp Agency