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A team of researchers have discovered what appears to be a significant biological link between Zika virus andmicrocephaly, a birth defect linked to abnormally small head size and stunted brain development in newborns.

Working with lab-grown human stem cells, the scientists found that the Zika virus selectively infects cells that form the brain’s cortex, or outer layer, making these cells more likely to die and less likely to divide normally and make new brain cells.

The study suggests these highly-susceptible cells could be used to screen for drugs that protect the cells or ease existing infections, the researchers say.

Results of the experiments—conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, Florida State University, and Emory University—are described online in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

 

Image: By GerryShaw – Standard tissue culture and immunofluorescence Previously published: Unpublished, CC BY-SA 3.0

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