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A Zika breakthrough: Scientists detail how virus can attack fetal brain

(WASHINGTON POST)  March 4, 2016 — U.S. researchers discover how the mosquito-borne virus targets critical brain cells and likely causes microcephaly.

A team of U.S. researchers announced Friday that they believe they have discovered a mechanism for how the Zika virus can cause the rare birth defect known as microcephaly, in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.

Working with lab-grown human stem cells, scientists found that the virus selectively infected cells forming the brain’s cortex, the thin outer layer of folded gray matter. Its assault made those cells more likely to die and less likely to divide normally and make new brain cells.

The finding by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Florida State University and Emory University offers among the strongest evidence yet of how Zika is harming fetuses. Health authorities are increasingly convinced that the mosquito-borne virus has caused microcephaly in hundreds of babies in Brazil, the epicenter of the Zika outbreak that is sweeping through the Americas.

Source: A Zika breakthrough: Scientists detail how virus can attack fetal brain – The Washington Post