Microbial Science

Cancer causing virus targets glial cells

The study could pave the path towards understanding the probable role of the virus

July 14, 2021
The Scitech

Scientists have recently found that the cancer-causing virus Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) affects the glial cells or the non-neural cells in the central nervous system and alters molecules like phospho-inositols (PIP); a type of lipid, glycerol, and cholesterol, when the virus infects the brain cells. This could pave the path towards understanding the probable role of the virus in neurodegenerative pathologies. The EBV can cause cancers like nasopharyngeal carcinoma (a type of head and neck cancer), B-cell (a type of white blood cells) cancer, stomach cancer, Burkett’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, post-transplant lymphoid disorders, and so on. More than 95% of the adult population is positive for EBV. However, the infection is mostly asymptomatic, and very little is known about the factors which trigger the development of such disease. It was the detection of the virus in patients with neurodegenerative diseases that triggered the search for the mechanism of propagation of the virus.

Teams from the Departments of Physics (led by Dr. Rajesh Kumar) and Biosciences and Biomedical Engineering (Dr. Hem Chandra Jha) at IIT Indore along with their collaborator, Dr. Fouzia Siraj, at National Institute of Pathology (ICMR), New Delhi, used Raman Spectroscopy System supported by “Fund For Improvement of S&T Infrastructure (FIST)” scheme of Department of Science and Technology to trace the propagation mechanism of the virus. Research scholars Ms. Deeksha Tiwari, Ms. Shweta Jakhmola, and Mr. Devesh Pathak also contributed to this study published recently in the journal ‘ACS Omega’. The teams have elucidated the infection pattern of EBV in the brain cells showing that the virus is also capable of infecting the glial cells (astrocytes and microglia) in the brain. This study noticed a differential pattern of infection progression in different glial cells. Dr. Jha said, “We found that the virus may take different time intervals to establish and spread infection in various types of glial cells of the brain.” Apart from the timeline of infection progression, their team also tried to reveal the biomolecules involved at each step of the virus infection and relate it to various neurological manifestations. The study was helpful in advancing the application of Raman Scattering as a technique for rapid and non-invasive detection of virus infection in clinical settings. Since all the techniques available for viral load detection in the brain by far include invasive methods, RS can be a relief for patients undergoing brain biopsies for diagnostic purposes. Furthermore, it can aid in early diagnosis.

Source: PIB release