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Scripps Florida Scientists Uncover New Facets of Zika-Related Birth Defects to Help Develop Treatment

zika1In a study that could one day help eliminate the tragic birth defects caused by Zika virus, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have elucidated how the virus attacks the brains of newborns, information that could accelerate the development of treatments. The study, led by TSRI Associate Professors Hyeryun Choe and Damon Page, was published recently in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. In the new study, the scientists observed the virus’s effects in animal models at two different points—during early postnatal development, when the brain is growing rapidly, and at weaning, when the brain has largely reached adult size. The findings expand the current knowledge of cell types vulnerable to the effects of Zika infection to include not only neuron progenitor cells, but also post-mitotic neurons that have finished dividing but are still are undergoing rapid increases in cell size. These results are consistent with the theory that periods of rapid brain growth are especially susceptible to the damaging neurodevelopmental effects of Zika infection.

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