March 14, 2016 – Zika Link


Anchor lead: There’s now evidence of how the Zika virus may produce microcephaly, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Using human stem cells that have been teased into becoming early brain cells, researchers at Johns Hopkins and two other institutions have found a link between Zika virus infection and compromise of developing nerve tissue, which may explain how microcephaly results when a pregnant woman becomes infected. Hongjun Song, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, explains.

Song:  We start from stem cells derived from humans, turn them into cortical precursor cells, so that’s the cells that eventually give rise to cortex.  So we asked a very simple question: can the virus infect them? If they do what’s the impact?  What we find that much to our surprise virus can infect these cells very efficiently. Not only can they infect these cells very efficiently, and now the precursor cells become a factory to make more virus.   :27

Song says this stem cell model could also be used to test potential therapies.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.