In a first, scientists have been able to determine one of the ways the Zika virus infection damages developing brain cells in fetuses. The Zika virus appears to activate a molecule called TLR3 that is normally used to defend against hostile viruses in human cells. In essence the Zika virus turns the gene against us, causing brain cell damage. By inhibiting the mechanism from operating brain damage can be prevented.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently concluded that Zika virus infection in pregnant women can stunt neonatal brain development, leading to babies born with abnormally small heads, a condition known as microcephaly. Now, for the first time, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have determined one way Zika infection can damage developing brain cells. The study, published May 6 in Cell Stem Cell, also shows that inhibiting this mechanism reduces brain cell damage, hinting at a new therapeutic approach to mitigating the effects of prenatal Zika virus infection.
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