A new study published online in PLOS ONE reveals that primitive human stem cells are resistant to human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), one of the leading prenatal causes of congenital intellectual disability, deafness and deformities worldwide. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that as stem cells and other primitive cells mature into neurons, they become more susceptible to HCMV, which could allow them to find effective treatments for the virus and to prevent its potentially devastating consequences.
"Previous studies have focused on other species and other cell types, but those studies did not evaluate what the cytomegalovirus does to human brain cells," said Vishwajit Nimgaonkar, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and senior author of the report. "This study is the first of its kind, and the first to discover that primitive stem cells are actually resistant to HCMV."
Access to cultured human neurons, necessary to understand the pathogenic effects of HCMV, has been limited by difficulties in growing the brain cells in the laboratory. Yet through human-induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, researchers were able to overcome this hurdle.
The study authors derived live iPS cells by reprogramming cells called fibroblasts obtained from human skin biopsies. The iPS cells were then induced to mature through several stages into neurons, the primary cells in the brain. The researchers were able to evaluate the patterns of damage caused by HCMV on all these cells.
The research findings suggest:
"The findings were quite surprising, but this is only the first in a series of studies on HCMV," added Nimgaonkar. "There is a lot of interest in what we can do to treat the infection, and current work is already underway to screen for new drugs that could be used to fight these viruses."
Between 50 and 80 percent of people in the U.S. have been infected by HCMV by the time they reach 40. Infections are rarely serious, but the virus does not leave the body. CMV is also the most common congenital infection in the U.S., and occurs when a mother contracts CMV during pregnancy and passes the virus to her unborn child. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of every 150 children is born with CMV infection and one in five of them develops permanent problems, such as intellectual disability, vision and hearing loss, and seizures.
Pitt researchers are collaborating with the Drug Discovery Institute to further understand the cellular system and determine which agents are most effective against HCMV and similar viruses, and which treatments would be safe for human use.
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences: http://www.upmc.com/Pages/default.aspx
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
UN assistant secretary general says deadly outbreak, which has been blamed on UN troops, demands decisive action
Caffeine is the drug many of us can't live without – but do you have any idea how much is in your daily hit?
Warmer temperatures are causing malaria to spread in the African and South American highlands, traditionally havens from the disease, scientists say.
How best to achieve success is a highly contentious issue, but politicians should remember that a good start in life is key
A second child seems to have been cleared of the AIDS virus, thanks to heavy-duty drugs started just hours after birth. This spring researchers plan to test that approach in 60 more newborns.
A report finds that azodicarbonamide wasn't just in Subway's bread: It's in hundreds of foods. While it has been linked to asthma in factory workers, the additive poses no known risk to consumers.
Army initiative to research suicides in the US military released its first three studiesAmanda Holpuch
The luxury fibre can be fashioned into screws and plates that could hold broken bones together while they heal, before biodegrading when no longer needed
Middle-aged people on a high-protein diet are at greater risk of dying from cancer, claims a study, but critics say firm evidence is lacking
In an exclusive interview with National Geographic, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, shares her concerns about the consequences of legalizing the drug.