Scientists know that the aedes aegypti mosquito can spread the Zika virus when it bites more than one person.
And they know that the virus can be transmitted from mother to fetus, resulting in microcephaly, an abnormally small head for the child, mental retardation and other complications.
What’s not known is the exact mechanism that transmits the virus. And that’s what MRIGlobal and the University of Missouri are studying.
The Kansas City-based research organization and MU announced Monday that they have received a $50,000 research grant, awarded by the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute.
The study, funded by the Paul Patton Trust, allows continuation of work begun earlier this year.
Carl Gelhaus, principal scientist at MRIGlobal, said there’s a desperate need to understand the transmission that causes such serious birth defects.
Researchers will use mice to study how Zika spreads and causes microcephaly. Gelhaus said the MRIGlobal team will focus on the birth defect research, and the MU team will delve into the genetics angle in the brain.
“Our hope is that we will identify drug and vaccine targets that can be further developed to stop the devastating effects,” Gelhaus said.
Gelhaus assured residents that the work is being done in “some of the best containment facilities in the world” and that he had “no concerns whatsoever about mosquitoes exiting the facility.”
Wayne Carter, CEO of the life sciences institute, said the grant fits with aims of the institute and the Patton Trust — to focus on genetic diseases that affect children, lead to life-changing treatments and pursue research programs with the greatest scientific relevance and potential impact.