Zika Research Yields Strong Links
Just prior to Peptides International announcing the addition of five new Zika virus proteins to our vast Recombinant Proteins Portfolio and interest they generated, there was a very pertinent paper published online in Cell Stem Cell. In this report, the authors make the strongest case yet linking the Zika virus infection and babies are being born with severe brain defects, including microcephaly, lissencephaly, (smooth brains lacking normal folds), and hydrocephaly, which often results in areas of the brain that have died and subsequently atrophied.
The article details expression analysis indicating the AXL protein as a candidate Zika virus (ZIKV) entry receptor in neural stem cells. AXL is highly expressed by stem cells in human radial glial cells, endothelial cells, astrocytes, and microglia in developing human cortex. Interestingly, this receptor is also highly expressed by progenitor cells in developing retina, and some of these babies that have the other brain defects, present with severe eye defects too.
Since being declared a global health emergency in February 2016 by the World Health Organization, research directed at this outbreak is never more urgent. Hopefully, contributions such as the ones offered by this paper and future inquiries will mitigate instances of infection with their devastating consequences.
Shortly after writing this PepTalk, it was reported that the first US death due to the Zika virus occurred in Puerto Rico and the island currently has 683 confirmed cases overall.