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Zika virus impairs growth in human neurospheres and brain organoids

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Science  13 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6287, pp. 816-818
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf6116

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Zika virus tested in human brain organoids

The pernicious and resilient Aedes mosquito is rapidly spreading Zika virus (ZIKV) through the Americas. ZIKV infection mostly causes mild disease, but in some patients, nervous system involvement is indicated. A particular worry is an observed correlation between infection of mothers in the first trimester of pregnancy and microcephaly in newborns. Garcez et al. tested the effects of ZIKV compared with dengue virus infection on human neural stem cells grown as organoids. ZIKV targeted the human brain cells, reduced their size and viability in vitro, and caused programmed cell death responses.

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Abstract

Since the emergence of Zika virus (ZIKV), reports of microcephaly have increased considerably in Brazil; however, causality between the viral epidemic and malformations in fetal brains needs further confirmation. We examined the effects of ZIKV infection in human neural stem cells growing as neurospheres and brain organoids. Using immunocytochemistry and electron microscopy, we showed that ZIKV targets human brain cells, reducing their viability and growth as neurospheres and brain organoids. These results suggest that ZIKV abrogates neurogenesis during human brain development.

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