It has been found that mice fetuses that were infected with the dreaded Zika virus became microcephalic as a result.
Those mouse fetuses which were exposed to the Asia Zika virus were more likely to become microcephalic. After covering the gestational period in the mothers’ wombs, these baby mice were born with smaller craniums. This research was carried out in China.
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The virus seems to have a negative effect on the neural progenitor cells. Those brains which got infected were more liable to show signs of genetic mutation, viral infection, changed immunity and cellular atrophy.
Thus it is a fact that the Zika virus causes microcephaly in mice that have been infected with its strains. This extends to all other mammals that are normally bitten by mosquitoes.
While the neural progenitor cells got infected in the beginning, it was only later on that the neurons also followed suit. This time span was five days in duration.
The presence of the Zika virus increases by a hundredfold during this passage to full-fledged illness. The neural progenitor cells were left intact while the rest of the neuron cells underwent atrophy and death.
The Zika virus was given to the mice fetuses via injection directly into their brain tissues. When this exposure was before the required time, the fetuses simply died.
So the virus was introduced into the fetuses brains at the time of neural genesis. This seemed to work and they didn’t die but contracted the disease. The brains simply underwent a reduction in size and were under the influence of the immune response.
While the mice fetuses survived till birth, most of them were consumed by their mothers. This is standard behavior in mice if they do not end up healthy enough to survive. Nature is very cruel and in this case it has a dark side.
Scientists are looking into the matter very closely. They want to see whether they could come up with certain drugs which will turn off the gene expression of the Zika virus.
This is very difficult given our current state of knowledge. Yet it could be a possibility in the future. Furthermore, we need to remember that mice cannot be compared to human beings. We are a breed apart from rodents.
To extrapolate from animals to homo sapiens is a long shot of the rigorous field of science and it is not always successful in the findings it generates.
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The findings of this research got published in Cell Stem Cell.