Two years after there were reports of Zika virus rate increase around the world, this complicated virus still raises questions. But now, scientists at Florida State University in the United States are coming closer to getting some answers. In a paper released Thursday in the journal Stem Cell Reports, Professor of Biological Sciences Hengli Tang and his fellow researcher Jianshe Lang explored the distinctions between the Dengue virus and the Zika virus.
At first glance, both Dengue and Zika viruses are quite alike, as both are delivered by mosquitoes and have similarly organized genetic makeup. But Zika is significantly more successful at penetrating the body’s protective mechanisms against infections and has a devastating impact on fetuses.
The researchers realized that the Zika virus possesses a remarkable capability to spread all over the infected body while the majority of the infections are being stopped. All that is firmly tied up with a specific immune cell known as a macrophage.
Macrophage immune cells infected with the Zika virus keep their capacity of migrating
The scientists cultivated macrophage immune cells using stem cells. Then, the researchers deliberately infected the resulting cells with Zika or Dengue virus.
They found out that, in case of a Dengue virus infection, the macrophages were relatively immobilized and remained still occupying one single place. On the other hand, those macrophage immune cells infected with the Zika virus kept on migrating. Even more, in one mammal infected with Zika, the researchers noticed that the macrophages cells are traveling all over the body via the bloodstream.
“They are uploading macrophages to other parts of the body,” added Tang before asserting that the Zika virus is aggressively eliminating the macrophage’s ability to perform its typical disease-fighting tasks.
“Now the question is: with the increased ability to spread throughout the body, does the Zika virus also use these infected macrophages to cross the placental barrier, the blood-brain barrier and the testicular barrier? If we understand how they cross these barriers, then we can develop more effective countermeasures to protect people,” concluded Hengli Tang.