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Zika Virus Updates: Researchers Discover Damaging Proteins

Update Date: Jan 07, 2017 10:28 AM EST

The Zika virus contains ten proteins and these were recently discovered, which may lead to improving medical treatments for the disease. The findings were circulated in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine used yeast cells to analyze how the Zika virus transformed through fission yeasts, which are popular scientific models for observing cellular activity. The study created tiny neutral stem cell organoids from the adult origin. It was revealed these proteins have the ability to cause much damage.

The new research discovered two of ten proteins, NS4A and NS4B, were causing microcephaly. Researchers examined three strains of Zika in the second trimester of human fetal neutral stem cells and found that these proteins were resonsible in creating fetal brain formation and mobilizing these particular Zika proteins.

The molecular pathway of NS4A and NS4B were the first big step toward target therapy for Zika-induced microcephaly. The Zika proteins strike a cellular signaling gatekeeper called "Akt-mTOR pathway" which disoriented brain development and autophagy regulation, which can help kill pathogens. 

These also help flaviviruses proliferate when they infect the cells. Flaviviruses are viruses with molecular mechanism that leads to create dengue, hepatitis C, and Zika.

It was confirmed that Zika proteins use the energy and nutrients of autophagy which leads to neuronal stem cells left with metabolic deficits. These proteins control the fetal neutral stem cells and contracted the size of brain organoids by 65 percent. The separation of neural stem cells into mature brain cells was reduced by up to 51 percent.

Zika virus can be transmitted through sexual activities and being bitten by Aedes mosquitoes. Most healthy patients will only experience mild side effects including fever, joint pain, and muscle soreness. These symptoms typically fade and patients might even consider them as those for the flu. 

Pregnant women are more at risk as Zika has caused a number of serious birth defects in developing fetuses including microcephaly, seizures, and cognitive problems. Pregnant women were recommended by doctors to avoid areas with known cases of the virus.

The Zika virus has been studied extensively and scientists have recently developed a working vaccine that is in early clinical trials. As of now, there is no specific vaccine or treatment for Zika. Doctors are giving out relieving treatments which include rehydration, rest, and medications for fever and pain.


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