Yesterday, in Cell Stem Cell: Zika Virus Infects Human Cortical Neural Progenitors, we looked at a paper describing an experiment where lab-grown human stem cells - similar to those which make up the developing brain's cortex - were shown highly susceptible to infection by a strain of the Zika virus.
While not proof of causation, researchers suggest this shows a plausible mechanism for the Zika virus to do the kind of damage we are seeing in Brazil's microcephalic births.
Since then scientists around the world - including Flublogia's own Dr. Ian Mackay - have had time to review the paper and offer their comments. As with all studies, this one is subject to some limitations, and so it's important we look at the fine print.
First a review of the paper in The Scientist by Ruth Williams with comments by Dr. Mackay, followed by Ian's overnight blog where he dissects the study even further.
Scientists provide a potential biological link between Zika virus infection and microcephaly.March 4, 2016 |
Laboratory-grown human neural progenitor cells, which can give rise to the kind of neurons and glia found in the brain, can be infected and killed by a strain of Zika virus, according to a report published today (March 4) in Cell Stem Cell. The study, albeit preliminary, offers the first suggestion of how Zika infection of pregnant women might lead to microcephaly in their babies.
“The study demonstrates that human neuron-like cells can be infected with Zika virus and that infection leads to death and reduced growth of the infected cells,” said microbiologist and immunologist Andrew Pekosz of Johns Hopkins University who was not involved in the study. “This is important because this may be a way to study the damage induced directly by infection.”
(Continue . . .)
Tang and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and other Universities have just described what Zika virus (ZIKV) can do to cells in culture. That is, cells that have been tweaked to appear and behave like human brain cells - of a sort. Some very complex, expensive and expert work is needed to chemically drive cells to become other cells. But the question is - how much does this reflect what happens in a developing foetus whose cells harbour ZIKV?