Researchers Examine Mosquito Brains In An Effort To Develop A Vaccine For The Zika Virus
Imagine being tasked with monitoring a mosquito’s neural functions. Mosquitoes are already tiny, so examining their brains is a pretty tall order. Despite how difficult this task seems, researchers have recently examined the brains of several different mosquitoes in order to learn more about mosquito physiology, and most of all, to develop a working vaccine to treat the Zika virus. Luckily, the researchers believe that they may have stumbled upon a breakthrough in the struggle to develop a viable vaccine.
According to Associate Professor Asim Bhatti, the research leader in neuro-engineering at Deakin’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation, Zika carrying mosquitoes are obviously infected with the Zika virus themselves, but research shows that mosquitoes are immune to the most debilitating effects of the virus. Of course, anybody who has been reading the paper or watching the news knows that thousands of babies have been born with brain abnormalities as a result of undergoing their fetal development in Zika-infected mothers. The most advanced cases of this type of brain damage is known as Guillain-Barré syndrome. Although there are currently numerous scientists and researchers around the world who are constantly working to develop a Zika vaccine, scientists have not yet synthesized an experimental form of the vaccine.
Most scientists research the Zika virus by conducting animal studies. However, Bhatti is conducting his experiments into Zika a bit differently by tracing the virus all the way back to the mosquitoes that transmit the virus. According to Bhatti, his experiment is the first in history to demonstrate a mosquito’s brain activity in vitro. Basically Bhatti is putting mosquito brain cells on a computer chip in order to track brain activity. Interestingly, it has been found that while the Zika virus kills human brain cells, mosquito brain cells don’t die, and they can recover quite easily. These surviving mosquito brain cells can continue to fight the Zika virus, while human cells cannot. This is an ongoing study that is raising more interesting questions than answers.
Do you believe that any type of insect brain can now be examined in detail thanks to modern technology? Can a tiny mite’s brain ever be examined?