Earlier today United Kingdom based web publication Dailymail reported that researchers had apparently made breakthrough research in determining how the Zika Virus, a virus that is currently causing a lot of infant related deaths in the United States alone, functions within the human body. According to the study which can be found published on Cell Stem Cell, the Zika Virus causes the stemm cells to self-destruct.
Why is the Zika Virus so deadly to infants?
The Zika virus causes an immune response that leads to the death of early brain cells. Infants are very much developing, they are after all just newborns. The Zika Virus stops their brains from developing properly and causes these afflicted infants to not be able to live normal lives, or it causes them to not be able to live at all. Ryan O’Hare writes, “Researchers may have reached a breakthrough in understanding how the Zika virus causes babies to be born with birth defects and developmental problems.A study found the virus activates a branch of the immune system which disrupts the activity of genes needed for brain development, resulting in microcephaly. In particular, the findings show the immune response to the virus – which causes stem cells in the brain to die – could potentially be dialed down in order to reduce the effects of the virus and its assocciated birth defects.”
So What Does This Mean?
The good news when it comes to this study is that now that researchers know how the virus operates, they can reverse engineer it and find ways to either prevent the harmful immune response, or they can develop some sort of vaccine in order to prevent its harmful effects on infant children. While this may be a small step, it is a step at least.