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Zika virus infects cells that make bone, muscle in lab tests

false-color image of cells in minibrain

MIXED SIGNALS  Minibrains grown in the lab form nerve cells (red) prematurely and show signs of dying cells (green) when treated with a signaling molecule called LIF. This molecule pours out of embryonic cranial cells after infection with Zika virus, and could harm brain development.

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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.

Astronomy

Solar system sits within a major spiral arm of the Milky Way

By Christopher Crockett 2:00pm, September 28, 2016
The solar system appears to live in one of the major spiral arms of the Milky Way, not in an offshoot as previously thought.
Genetics,, Cells,, Science & Society

First ‘three-parent baby’ born from nuclear transfer

By Tina Hesman Saey 6:14pm, September 27, 2016
The first human baby produced through spindle nuclear transfer was born in April, New Scientist reports.
Health

Measles has been eliminated in the Americas, WHO says

By Meghan Rosen 3:11pm, September 27, 2016
Thanks to wide-spread vaccination against the viral disease, measles has officially been declared eliminated from the Americas.
Planetary Science

A salty sea could lurk beneath the heart of Pluto

By Christopher Crockett 5:00pm, September 23, 2016
An ocean more than 100 kilometers thick might hide beneath Pluto’s surface.
Archaeology,, Computing

Digital rehab exposes Biblical roots of ancient Israeli scroll

By Bruce Bower 2:00pm, September 21, 2016
Virtual unwrapping reveals Biblical text on charred remains of ancient Israeli scroll.
Climate,, Oceans

Arctic sea ice shrinks to second-lowest low on record

By Thomas Sumner 5:18pm, September 19, 2016
A warm summer helped shrink sea ice in the Arctic Ocean to a statistical tie with 2007 for the second smallest sea ice minimum on record.
Animals,, Evolution

Hawaiian crows ace tool-user test

By Susan Milius 2:59pm, September 14, 2016
The almost-extinct Hawaiian crow joins the small, select flock of birds shown to use sticks tools routinely and well to wiggle bits of food out of crevices.
Planetary Science

Source of Charon’s red north pole is probably Pluto

By Christopher Crockett 1:00pm, September 14, 2016
The dark red pole on Charon, the largest moon of Pluto, is probably gas that escaped from Pluto and was then transformed by sunlight.
Planetary Science

OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launches tonight for mission to grab asteroid sample

By Christopher Crockett 6:00am, September 8, 2016
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is about to launch for a seven-year mission to study the asteroid Bennu and bring samples of the space rock back to Earth.
Paleontology,, Animals

Jurassic ichthyosaur dubbed ‘Storr Lochs Monster’ unveiled

By Meghan Rosen 9:26am, September 7, 2016
A rare, 170-year-old skeleton discovered in Scotland is one of the best-preserved ichthyosaur fossils from the Middle Jurassic.
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