From UC San Diego Health
September 10, 2018
acrophages are immune cells that are supposed to protect the body from infection by viruses and bacteria. Yet Zika virus preferentially infects these cells. Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have now unraveled how the virus shuts down the genes that make macrophages function as immune cells.
The study is published the week of September 10 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .
In pregnant women, Zika virus can stunt neonatal brain development, leading to babies born with abnormally small heads, a condition known as microcephaly. Adult brain cells may also be vulnerable to the virus.
“We know Zika virus destroys a number of cell types, particularly in the brain, but we don’t yet understand how it causes cells to die or malfunction,” said first author Aaron Carlin, MD, PhD, associate physician at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “So this loss of general gene transcription and identity we saw in macrophages could also be crucial when a neural stem cell is trying to develop into a new neuron.”