New mouse model shows how Zika infection affects the postnatal brain

Researchers have developed a mouse model that replicates the brain abnormalities Zika infection causes in human fetuses, according to a paper in Development.

University of Georgia in Athens researchers created the mouse model by injecting the Zika virus into mouse embryos' brains. They then observed the virus' neurological effects after the mice were born.

The most significant finding was that Zika infection leads to "abnormal blood vessel formation in the brain and a leaky blood-brain barrier." This could allow the entry of harmful pathogens into the brain.

According to Jianfu Chen, an assistant professor of genetics in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the researchers "observed massive death of neuronal cells in our mouse model. This combined with the disruption of the vascular system and the blood-brain barrier results in microcephaly and extensive brain damage."

The researchers hope that the model they created will help scientists further understand how the Zika virus affects different cell types in the developing brain as well as test new therapies.

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