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Zika Virus Proteins NS4A, NS4B Associated With Microcephaly

Discovery might one day lead to a way to prevent the birth defect, researchers say

FRIDAY, Aug. 12, 2016 (HealthDay News) — The Zika virus contains 10 proteins, but only two — NS4A and NS4B — are linked to microcephaly, according to a study published online Aug. 11 in Cell Stem Cell.

“We now know the molecular pathway, so we made the first big step toward target therapy for Zika-induced microcephaly,” corresponding author Jae Jung, Ph.D., of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, said in a university news release. “Years from now, one shot or a series of shots could target the proteins NS4A and NS4B or their collaborator.”

The USC researchers said they’re trying to learn more about NS4A and NS4B through mouse studies and induced pluripotent stem cells-derived brain organoids.

“It is important to remember that not every pregnant woman infected with Zika virus gives birth to a baby with microcephaly. Nevertheless, we are trying to develop a cure for that percentage that does get Zika-related microcephaly,” study corresponding coauthor Zhen Zhao, Ph.D., an assistant professor of research physiology and biophysics at the University of Southern California, said in the news release.

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