Sophisticated 'Mini-brains' Add to Evidence of Zika's Toll on Fetal Cortex
Novel tool expected to speed research on brain and drug development
By using pinhead-size, lab-grown brains with technology that was first suggested by a group of high school students, scientist a Johns Hopkins have confirmed how Zika virus causes so much damage to fetal brains: the virus infects specialized stem cells in the fetus that are responsible for building the outer layer of the brain also known as the cortex. The brains the scientists use are truer to real brains compared to similar research models and are more cost-effective. Each brain is created using a 3-D printer. “We have been working for three years to develop a better research model of brain development, and it’s fortunate we can now use this one to shed light on the major public health crisis posed by Zika infections,” says Hongjun Song, PhD, professor of neurology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Institute for Cell Engineering. “This more realistic, 3-D model confirms what we suspected based on what we say in a two-dimensional cell culture: that Zika causes microcephaly – abnormally small brains and heads – mainly by attacking the neural progenitor cells that build the brain and turning them into virus factories.” To read more on this study, click here.
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