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|Zika Virus Damages Placenta by Haleplushearty: 1:27pm On Jan 19, 2018|
Zika virus is known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, new research suggests the virus damages a pregnant mother's placenta, an organ inside a woman's uterus that protects and cares for a growing baby.
Zika virus infection in five pregnant rhesus monkeys caused placental tissues to become thickened and inflamed. As a result, the researchers saw less oxygen being transported across the placenta and to the baby. Decreased oxygen levels in a placenta can impair fetal development and ultimately the health of a baby.
The role of a placenta is to protect and provide nutrition to a growing baby for optimum health Professor Daniel Streblow, Ph.D., and assistant professor Alec Hirsch, Ph.D., both of whom lead molecular microbiology and immunology research at the OHSU Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute. Streblow also leads pathobiology and immunology research at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and is a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology within the OHSU School of Medicine.
The reseachers used a non-invasive, in vivo MRI technique to evaluate oxygen levels inside the placenta and oxygen flow between mother and baby. They found that, in monkeys that were infected with Zika early in their pregnancies, the rate of oxygen transport through the placenta decreased about 10-fold. The OHSU research team also determined the Zika virus can readily pass from mother to baby and remain in the baby long-term, leading to a chronic infection in utero.
These findings may provide important insights into the mechanisms by which Zika virus causes disease during pregnancy. By better understanding how both mother and child become infected with and affected by the Zika virus, researchers can determine how to prevent its infection and disease. The OHSU research team is using the knowledge gained from this study to develop a safe and effective Zika vaccine for use during pregnancy.
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