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Zika disrupts cellular processes to impair brain development

Virus also causes spike in protein that controls cell growth, death

By
5:30pm, October 19, 2016
Zika virus

ATTACK MODE  Researchers are learning about how the Zika virus (red) causes brain cells to stop growing, leading to microcephaly. Those discoveries may lead to treatments that can counteract the virus’s effect on developing brains.

VANCOUVER — Zika virus’s tricks for interfering with human brain cell development may also be the virus’s undoing.

Zika infection interferes with DNA replication and repair machinery and also prevents production of some proteins needed for proper brain growth, geneticist Feiran Zhang of Emory University in Atlanta reported October 19 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics.

Levels of a protein called p53, which helps control cell growth and death, shot up by 80 percent in human brain cells infected with the Asian Zika virus strain responsible for the Zika epidemic in the Americas, Zhang said. The lab dish results are also reported in the Oct. 14 Nucleic Acids Research. Increased levels of the protein stop developing brain cells from growing

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