Brain in a Dish Research for Zika Antivirals
A University of Queensland (UQ) led project recently announced it used a ‘brain in a dish’ to study the effects of the Zika virus, taking research a step closer to developing drugs to combat the serious infection.
Researchers from UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences found a crucial element to Zika infection, viral noncoding RNA (sfRNA), which helps it evade antiviral responses and cause cell death in developing brains.
“Our study shows the role of viral noncoding RNA in transplacental infection in pregnant mice and in cell death in human brain organoids," wrote these researchers on December 12, 2022.
“This finding gives us a whole new look at how the virus works its way into the developing brain and knowledge we can use to develop more effective antiviral drugs.”
The next step for researchers is to further understand how a specific viral protein, NS5, interacts with sfRNA at the molecular level and how this interaction helps the virus to escape antiviral response.
“This information will help researchers develop antiviral drugs to block this interaction and combat Zika."
This study was published by SCIENCE ADVANCES on November 30, 2022, and was a collaborative effort between researchers at UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences and Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, and the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.