Zika virus could fight brain tumors; step up to help prevent suicide

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The Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes, may carry an unexpected health benefit: combating the growth of brain tumors.
  • The Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes, may carry an unexpected health benefit: combating the growth of brain tumors.

Mosquitoes vs. brain tumors
By now you’ve heard of the dreadful Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes, that impairs growth of the developing fetal brain, leading to babies being born with undersized, misshapen heads. But the virus may have a surprising positive side: It seems that the same properties that cause Zika to impair growth in the developing brain may also allow it to impair growth of glioblastomas — the type of brain cancer that Arizona Sen. John McCain has, and one with an especially grim prognosis. Research is still preliminary, but brain tumors in mice shrank significantly when the mice were injected with the virus.

“Our research shows it also selectively targets and kills cancer stem cells, which tend to be resistant to standard treatments and a big reason why glioblastomas recur after surgery and result in shorter patient survival rates,” wrote one of the study’s authors.

The new issue of InHealth is out now, on stands and online.


Video games prepare brain to learn

Playing video games at least 15 hours a week may enhance learning, according to a fairly small but tantalizing new study. MRIs of brain activity of 17 regular gamers were compared to 17 non-gamers, as they completed a task that involved synthesizing and analyzing new information. “Our study shows that gamers are better in analyzing a situation quickly, to generate new knowledge and to categorize facts — especially in situations with high uncertainties," says one of the study's authors.

Playing video games seems to facilitate activity in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in learning and memory, and notably an area affected by age-related changes. Researchers speculate that someday video gaming might offer help to combat those changes.


Suicide: Step up and help out
Join with others to learn about how to help prevent suicide at a training session offered by Spokane-based FailSafe for Life. Participants will receive two hours of comprehensive training on how to recognize someone in crisis, what to say to help and where to turn for additional help, as well as information on stress and depression. A resource guide will be yours to keep; sandwiches and light refreshments will be served: Tickets are available here

FailSafe for Life was founded by Sabrina Votava, who not only has a degree in public health and a decade of work in suicide prevention, but has also experienced the tragedy of suicide through the loss of two brothers. The training session takes place on Wednesday, Oct. 18 from 6-8 pm at Providence Holy Family Hospital (5633 N. Lidgerwood), HEC Room 1.