Zika virus infects cells that make bone, muscle in lab tests
Zika virus can infiltrate the cells that give rise to bone, cartilage and muscles in the head, researchers report September 29 in Cell Host & Microbe.
In utero infection of these cells, called cranial neural crest cells, could improperly mold babies’ facial features, the authors suggest. The findings — so far observed only in cells and minibrains grown in the lab — offer a possible explanation for the misshapen heads that are the hallmark of microcephaly, a condition that afflicts some babies infected with Zika.
Another hitch: The virus made cranial cells unleash a flood of molecules that can alter brain cell development. So in addition to disfiguring the skull, infected cranial cells might also disrupt the brain, the researchers propose.