Researchers from the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology worked together to find out whether the Asian Zika virus led to microcephaly in mammals. They injected the virus directly into the brains of fetal mice and found that embryos at a nascent stage failed to survive the virus attack. However, when fetuses were in the second trimester – a stage when the neural progenitor cells intensively expand while generating new neurons – were administered the virus, the researchers observed that an increase in the viral load directly corresponded to the shrinkage of the brain. Interestingly, the virus infected the neural progenitor cells, but almost all cell death was found in neurons, indicating that neurons are affected the most by the Zika virus. While the mammalian model used in the study displayed direct evidence that the virus triggers microcephaly, the researchers want to investigate further to understand whether it prompts a similar response in humans.
Read more in Science Daily.