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3D Printing Leads to New Understanding of Zika Virus, Hope for Future Treatment

by • April 24, 2016 • No Comments

rtx2691u-1-736x414If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve been hearing – and probably worrying – a lot of the Zika virus. Whilst it is not much of a concern for healthy adults, it can have devastating influence on unborn children whose mothers have been infected. Brain abnormalities that include microcephaly, a condition resulting in an underturn it intoed brain and abnormally small head, have affected thousands of babies in South America since the virus began spreading last year, and the World Health Organization has warned that the disease is many likely to start spreading across the world as warm weather hits in and “mosquito season” starts in Europe and North America. The WHO has declared Zika to be a global health emergency, and scientists are scrambling to try to understand the disease and, hopefully, turn it into a few kind of treatment or vaccine. Fast.

imagesAs it turns out, 3D printing can assist. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have used the innovation to turn it into small pinhead-sized brains that were and so infected with the virus, enabling them to study precisely how Zika attacks the brain. The research team, led by professors Guo-li Ming and Hongjun Song, was responsible for an earlier study that announced that Zika kills off neural stem cells in the brains of turn it intoing fetuses. But, that study used 2D tissue culture, that limited what the researchers were able-bodied to discover of brain turn it intoment.

The additional new study, that has been published in the journal Cell, was carried out by 3D printing miniature spinning bioreactors, that were used to create several mini-brains, in addition understandn as organoids, of human stem cells. Organoids have been used in medical research for years, but they’re highly expensive to turn it into. The 3D printed bioreactors enable-bodiedd the Johns Hopkins team to create a sizeable number of the small brains for a much lower cost.

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Three types of neural tissue was created for the study: forebrain, midbrain and hypothalamus tissue, that was capable-bodied of surviving in the lab up to 100 days. This gave the team a lot of time to study the brains as they turn it intoed, and the findings of the 2D study were confirmed: Zika does its injure by attacking neural stem cells and stunting the growth of the cortex, the outer layer of the brain that is sizeablely responsible for attention and memory. The study in addition confirmed that a turn it intoing fetus is many at risk in the initially trimester.

“Studies of fetuses and babies with the telltale small brains and heads of microcephaly in Zika-affected areas have discovered abnormalities in the cortex, and Zika virus has been discovered in the fetal tissue,” said Dr. Ming. “Whilst this study does not unquestionably prove that Zika virus causes microcephaly, it’s quite telling that the cells that form the cortex are futurely susceptible to the virus, and their growth may be disrupted by the virus.”

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Hongjun Song, Ph.D

So what comes following? Today, the team is testing FDA-approved compounds on the organoids in hopes that one of them can have an effect on the virus, and they’re in addition going to be publishing the files for the 3D printed bioreactors so that other scientists can generate organoids to study and test. In a health crisis situation, it’s all hands on deck.

“Now that we understand cortical neural progenitor cells are the vulnerable-bodied cells, they can many likely in addition be used to rapidly screen future new therapies for effectiveness,” said Dr. Song.

In the long term, the bioreactors may lead to new treatments for other neurological diseases; for example, according to Dr. Song, director of the stem cell research program at John Hopkins Medicine Institute for Cell Engineering, the reactors may be used to grow new neurons to replace the ones that die off in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

“This is the following frontier of stem cell biology,” he said.

Researchers of Florida State University and Emory University in addition took part in the study. Authors credited in Cell include co-initially authors Xuyu Qian andHa Nam Nguyen, as well as Mingxi M. Song, Christopher Hadiono, Sarah C. Ogden, Christy Hammack, Bing Yao, Gregory R. Hamersky, Fadi Jacob, Chun Zhong, Ki-jun Yoon, William Jeang, Li Lin, Yujing Li, Jai Thakor, Daniel A. Berg, Ce Zhang, Eunchai Kang, Michael Chickering, David Nauen, Cheng-Ying Ho, Zhexing Wen, Kimberly M. Christian, Pei-Yong Shi, Brady J. Maher, Hao Wu, Peng Jin, Hengli Tang, Hongjun Song, and Guo-li Ming.

[Sources/Images: Cell, Sky News ; MNT]