At this time of year, the mere mention of the flu in public might be seen as a lapse in good judgement. The virus continues to circulate around the country, and with it days to weeks of fever, aches, coughs and chills for those who become infected. Even worse, for thousands of Canadians each year, the infection can also lead to hospitalizations and quite possibly a life or death situation.
But there may be a silver lining to this virus. Despite its reputation as the cause of a nasty infection, influenza virus may have the ability to help us fight another serious problem threatening millions of Canadians each year. We may be able to use flu to fight cancer.
When the influenza virus was discovered, it was thought only to infect the lungs. However, studies exploring the effect of the virus in the body revealed the infection can spread to other organs such as the spleen, liver, kidney and brain. In the 1950s, researchers also found the virus could infect tumours grown in the lab environment. When these cells got the flu, many of them died off, suggesting a possible role for the virus in fighting cancer.
However, the idea never took off due to another, more troubling problem. The virus makes a molecule known as the non-structural protein, or NS1. Its primary job is to ensure proper viral function when inside a cell. But this viral product can also suppress the immune response. When an infection occurs, NS1 gives the virus an added edge during battle and can help to keep the invasion going.
The NS1 issue lasted for nearly half a century before another group of researchers made a significant discovery. Even without the NS1 protein, flu could still live and multiply. This re-opened the door to cancer treatment.
American researchers seem to have given us the next step in this journey towards a cancer-fighting flu.
New experiments using viruses lacking NS1 proceeded in the hopes of proving this virus could still kill tumour cells. Over the coming decade, several attempts were tried. Eventually, in 2009, the desired effect was seen, although the effect was not as strong as anticipated. Still, the results allowed researchers to continue their search for the best cancer-killing flu virus.
This past week, a group of American researchers seem to have given …
Source:: The Huffington Post – Canada Travel