Yale study identifies cells in human placenta that can carry Zika virus

(AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Inside a laboratory at The Anlyan Center at Yale School of Medicine, researchers have identified two cells, located in a woman’s placenta that can carry Zika virus.

Kellie Ann Jurado points to the screen displaying the cells and says “the virus is being replicated within these cells and it’s lighting up green.”

The placenta provides the oxygen and nutrients a baby needs to grow. Specializing in studying viruses, she says one of the cells they found generally protects the fetus.

“Zika is capable of overcoming this barrier,” says Jurado, “and finding a cell type that is susceptible to infection.”

The cells are able to harbor Zika, creating a reservoir for the virus to replicate. Obstetrician Dr. Michael Simoni was also part of the investigative team.

He says, “There is one question of how does it actually cross the placenta but once they are in the placenta, we do think that these are the cells that allow it to replicate and grow in numbers.”

Still, they are not certain how Zika leads to an infant with microcephaly, resulting in a smaller head and facing developmental issues.

“We do know,” says Dr. Simoni, “that it has a specific like for the brain. That’s where it wants to go.”

The results could lead to coming up with a way to potentially block Zika from infecting the fetus.

The study was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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