University of Michigan Researchers Seeking Microcephaly Patients for Research Study

Researchers at the University of Michigan are looking for babies with non-Zika virus-related microcephaly for a research study. They hope that understanding the causes of microcephaly not related to Zika virus infection will provide some clues regarding the diagnosis in babies infected with the Zika virus.

Symptoms of MicrocephalyResearchers at the University of Michigan are seeking out families whose babies have non-Zika microcephaly in order to obtain skin and DNA samples, in the hopes that they will be able to understand more about how microcephaly develops in babies infected with the Zika virus. Understanding the commonalities and differences between different kinds of microcephaly will help researchers better understand why the virus works the way it does.

Researcher Stephanie Bielas of the University of Michigan Medical School is focusing on the genetics of brain development, and has released two new research papers in the American Journal of Human Genetics focusing on a specific protein necessary for proper brain development. This protein, citron kinase (CIT), is key in making sure that cell division during brain growth occurs properly. Recent research shows that cells in microcephalic tissues have multiple nuclei where typically cells only have one. This suggests that something goes wrong during the cell division process in microcephaly. Further studies demonstrate that in microcephaly, there are also not enough neural progenitor cells (the precursors to fully-developed brain cells) to properly grow a normal-size brain. Further study is needed to understand the mechanisms that give rise to a microcephaly diagnosis, but researchers are slowly making advances in understanding the basis of the condition.

How can the parents of children with birth injuries help researchers understand the Zika virus?

In some cases, babies who have birth injuries can develop microcephaly secondary to the injury itself. This can be secondary to intrauterine problems (such as vascular or infection-related pathologies), perinatal brain injuries (such as HIE, intracranial haemorrhage, stroke, or meningoencephalitis), or due to postnatal systemic disease (Chronic renal failure, malnutrition, cardiopulmonary disease). Parents of children with birth injury-related or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy-related microcephaly can reach out to these researchers’ administrative contacts to see if research studies are currently recruiting individuals.


Other Zika-related information:

Note: Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers does not take cases relating to Zika virus and cannot provide medical advice about the virus. This article is provided merely as an informational update relating to possible topics of interest for individuals seeking information regarding pregnancy, childbirth, and neonatal health.


Brain research is an ongoing process, and, at the moment, hypothermia therapy is the standard of care when it comes to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Additive or supplemental measures in addition to hypothermia are still in preclinical or clinical trials, so it is too early to say whether any of these supplemental measures will be adopted as standards of care. Because these are highly experimental findings, we caution readers that we are merely providing this information as an update on findings in the field of HIE research, rather than as a potential source of treatment information. 

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