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Zika Virus Research Featured in Nature Medicine

24 January 2018


The cover story in the January 2018 issue of Nature Medicine, entitled ‘Puzzling over privilege’, highlights the research on Zika virus by Saguna Verma and her co-workers, published recently in the October 2017 issue of the Journal of Virology.

The recent Zika and Ebola virus epidemics have spurred interest in understanding the mechanisms of virus persistence in the testes, an immune privilege organ, many months after virus clearance from elsewhere in the body. The testes seem to be a particularly understudied area among immune-privileged sites, which also include the eye and the brain. Human testes are less readily available than other tissue types donated to research, making it difficult to validate findings in animal models.

The focus of the Verma group is to clarify the immune mechanisms involved in the persistence of Zika virus in testicular cells. The team has shown that the gatekeeper cells that protect developing germ cells, called Sertoli cells, succumb easily to Zika virus infection. The tightly held space between Sertoli cells, known as the blood-testis barrier, keeps immune cells from reaching spermatids. But Zika virus-infected Sertoli cells allow easy trafficking of virus into the inner lumen of the seminiferous tubules, a site for storage of spermatids. The article also mentioned her collaboration with a group at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, who has developed three-dimensional tissue models, or organoids, of human testicular cells to study Zika virus pathogenesis.

The team believes that curing Zika virus infection of the testes will depend on knowing how the testes lose its unique immune privilege position. By better understanding the complex interactions between testicular cells and testes-tropic viruses, it will become possible to develop effective therapeutic strategies.

Link to the news story: https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.eres.library.manoa.hawaii.edu/pubmed/?term=nature+medicine+testes+puzzling

Link to the research article: http://jvi.asm.org/content/early/2017/08/31/JVI.00623-17.abstract