Long before, experts have been regarding microcephaly as a condition that is present at birth in which the baby's head is much smaller than normal for an infant of that age and gender. Babies with microcephaly are perceived to have a wide array of problems which can include having a small brain and head, developmental delays, seizures, vision and hearing loss and feeding difficulty. Now, a new study conducted by a multidisciplinary team from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston have recently uncovered the mechanisms that the Zika virus possesses to allegedly alter brain development.
Zika Virus And Microcephaly: What's The Link?
According to reports by Jamaica Observer, the World Health Organization has recently revealed that there are currently 70 countries and territories reporting active Zika transmission. It was found that although the Zika infection would commonly result in a symptom-free or mild infections in healthy adults and children, the risk of microcephaly in the developing fetus is an alarming consequence that has been creating a worldwide health threat. Since a normal brain develops from simple cells which also referred to as stem cells that have the ability to develop into any one of various kinds of cells, the UTMB team has deduced that microcephaly is most likely linked with abnormal function of these cells.
Furthermore, in one of his statements reported by Zee News, study senior author Ping Wu, a professor at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in the US said that their team has discovered that since there are two main lineages of the virus, namely the African and Asian; the Asian lineage Zika virus has consequently halted the proliferation of brain stem cells and hindered their ability to develop into brain nerve cells. However, professor Wu has highly emphasized that the effect that the Zika virus had created on the ability of stem cells to develop into specialized cells differed between donors. Additionally, the UTMB professor has also said that the unique system containing stem cells from three donors will allow us to dissect molecular mechanisms underlying Zika virus-induced brain malformation
The team further claims that the difference obtained from the study is seemingly linked with a Zika-induced change in global gene expression pattern and remains to be seen which genes are responsible. Ultimately, the experts said that they have discovered that two weeks after the cells had developed into a certain type, the Zika infection was mainly found in glial cells which provide support and insulation for the brain.