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Reining-in Flaviviruses

Type I interferon's role in how a flavivirus infects the brain

02 May 2023

Reining-in Flaviviruses

Flaviviruses have existed for thousands of years and still hit the headlines, most recently with Zika virus. They can fatally infect the human brain. Your body defends against them by making the protein interferon type I (IFN-I). How IFN-I affects the ability of flaviviruses to infect different cells (tropism), which determines the infection's spread, isn't clear. Researchers investigate by infecting the brains of normal mice and mice genetically altered so they're unresponsive to IFN-I, with the flavivirus, Langat virus. Combining optical projection tomography (OPT) with MRI revealed virus distribution in the brain (pictured). In normal mice (two views left), the virus only infected grey matter in sensory brain areas. In mutants (right), it spread further, infecting white matter. The team revealed the spread into white matter-targeted cells called microglia. Normal mice brains had more IFN-I activity, which protected microglia, uncovering IFN-I's role in viral tropism.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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