Study: Zika directly infects brain cells, subverts immune system

The Zika virus directly infects cells that are destined to form into neurons, according to a new study published in Cell Reports.

For the study, a group of researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas examined the impact of an isolated strain of Zika found in the Western Hemisphere on fetal derived progenitor cell cultures. A progenitor cell is similar to stem cells in that they have a tendency to differentiate into a specific type of cell, though progenitor cells cannot replicate indefinitely like stem cells.

Researchers found that the virus infects neural progenitor cells, killing some and not others. The cells that survived the infection continued to replicate the virus for weeks. Researchers noted that the virus did not spur much of an immune response.

John Schoggins, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study, said, "The cellular system we studied mirrors what pathologists are finding in the brain tissue of affected infants and will be valuable for further understanding how Zika causes severe brain-related problems. The system may also serve as a platform for testing new therapies targeting the virus."

Find out where Zika has been reported in the U.S. as of June 3 here.

More article on the Zika virus: 
Detroit Tigers pitcher contracted Zika during offseason  
The problem with how Congress is funding Zika response efforts  
Many Americans unaware of how Zika spreads and 6 other survey findings 

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