Scientists now understand Zika virus with the aid of Mini Brains.

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Do you remember when we talked about the mini brains developed at John Hokins hospital for drug testing? It turns out Researchers have found another area in which those brains can be used, in the study of how Zika virus causes Microcephaly- a medical condition in which the brain does not develop properly resulting in a smaller than normal size of head.

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Zika virus according to the study published in the journal Cell, caused the brains of unborn babies to shrink, it does this by attacking the cells responsible for the growth of the brain and turns them into their home.

After infecting these mini brains which were created using 3D printers, with the virus at John Hopkins university Baltimore in the United States, it was found that the disease confined the growth of the cortex which is the outer layer of the brain that helps an individual’s consciousness, perception, attention and memory.

If the infection occurred very early in development, the virus mostly infected the mini-brains’ neural progenitor cells and the effects were very severe. After a while, the mini-brains would stop growing and disintegrate.

Guo-li Ming
Professor of neurology, neoroscience, psychiatry and behavioral science.

Ming also said that, at a later stage while the virus was mimicking the second trimester, it still preferentially infected neural progenitor cells as it also affected some neurones. All these made growth to be slower and the cortex was thinner than in non infected-brains.

Hongjun Song who is Ming’s husband and research partner said that their team which also  included members from other universities in the US would publish the 3D printing files so as to aid other researchers make bioreactor needed to grow mini brains. He added that the technology could be used to grow Dopaminergic neurons also which could replace the ones that die off in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. In conclusion he said, “this is the next frontier of stem cell biology”.

Zika has been declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a global public health emergency, it has no cure. Be careful, keep your environment clean as scientists continue to do their best to provide a vaccine for it. You can also read on the fight against Zika virus with genetically altered mosquitoes.


Zika virus (Zika) is a disease caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite from an infected Aedes species mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.



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