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According to a recent animal study, stem cells infected with herpes can kill brain tumors, giving way to the possibility of using virotherapy. This is based on a research conducted by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute scientists working for the Massachusetts General Hospital.
During the research, the researchers put the herpes-loaded stem cells in gel form and applied them to tumors in mice suffering from gliobastoma multiforme, improving their rate of survival. The tumor was among the most common brain tumor occurring among human adults.
The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and conducted by study leader Khalid Shah, MS, PhD, who is an HSCI Principal Faculty member.
Past studies have shown that oncolytic herpes simplex viruses can treat brain cancer as the virus attacks the brain cells, dividing them. However, this is not effective on humans because the virus could not stay in one place before they are done attacking all the cancer cells.
However, this recent study has shown the use of mesenchymal stem cells, or the adult stem cells found in the bone marrow tissue, can contain the herpes while diving deep into the brain tumor.
The virus is held in place around the division of the brain cells using biocompatible gels.
The team observed the way the virus attacks the cancer by using imaging proteins. They found out that the gel actually prolong the life of the stem cells, which stimulate virus replication and eliminate the cancer cells left from the debulking surgery. In the study among mice, the mice whose brain tissues were applied with gel-encapsulated stem cells survived longer.
The survival of the stem cells was credited to the fact that they survived because they were not flooded with the cerebrospinal fluid.
The study also tackled the fact that not all brain tumors can be treated. The researchers then develop oncolytic herpes viruses to hasten the tumor-killing power of the stem cells. They succeeded in increasing the animals survival rate.
Shah said that their study might help deal with the issues of current brain tumor treatments. The herpes with oncolytic viruses may not only treat brain tumors, but other types of solid tumors as well.
You can learn more about brain tumors and herpes-loaded viruses in the links below.