Ebola Virus Proves Effective in Fight Against Lethal Brain Tumors 

By Jodee Redmond from In the Cloud Copy 

Glioblastomas are tumors that are particularly difficult to treat. They start forming in the glial cells of the brain and spinal cord (those that surround nerve cells help them to function properly).  

This form of brain tumor is often fatal. Researchers have found that one of the world’s most deadly viruses may be helpful in treating them, according to Yale University neurosurgery professor Anthony van den Pol. The research team’s efforts were published in the Journal of Virology (February 12).  

What is Ebola Virus Disease? 

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is caused by an infection by one of several viruses. Only four of them cause the disease to break out in humans. The others affect other primates (chimpanzees, gorillas, and monkeys).  

The virus was discovered in 1976. It takes its name from the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Several Ebola virus outbreaks have occurred since that time. Ebola virus disease spreads through direct contact with blood and bodily fluids of infected patients, as well as animal tissues. If someone touches infected bodily fluids (or objects that have been contaminated with them), the virus can get in through either a cut or the mucus membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth. 

Ebola Virus Approach Takes Advantage of Glioblastoma Cancer Tumor Weakness 

Many cancer cells don’t have the ability to generate an immune response when faced with viruses. As a result, cancer researchers have begun to look at the possibility of using viruses to treat several types of cancers.  

This treatment approach does come with some risk. It can introduce dangerous infections into a patient’s body. To deal with this issue, scientists have experimented with creating chimeric viruses that can target cancer cells without harming healthy ones. Chimeric viruses are made in a laboratory using a combination of genes from several viruses.  

One of the Ebola virus’ seven genes help it avoid triggering the body’s immune system. It’s also part of the reason why the Ebola virus has such a high average mortality rate (approximately 50%). Anthony van den Pol and the study’s first author, Xue Zhang, took a chimeric virus made with one of Ebola’s genes and injected it into the mice brains. The animals had glioblastomas, and the researchers found that the chimeric virus helped to selectively isolate and destroy the mice’s brain tumors.  

Ebola May Protect Normal Cells from Infection 

Van den Pol commented that the chimeric virus’ beneficial effect in this instance appeared to be that it shields healthy cells and they don’t become infected. Malignant cells can’t put up a defense against disease-causing elements.  

He went on to say that an important factor may be that the chimeric virus may replicate less quickly, which makes it safer than the original Ebola virus. A virus with these properties may be used with surgery to treat glioblastoma tumors and stop the cancer from recurring. 



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