Pasteur in SP will study mini-brains with Zika virus – 03/27/2024 – Science

Pasteur in SP will study mini-brains with Zika virus – 03/27/2024 – Science


Among the lines of research that should be studied at the Institut Pasteur in São Paulo, officially opened this Wednesday (27) in a ceremony attended by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, are the effects of pathogens on brain development, such as zika virus.

To do this, the researchers will infect mini-brains with samples of the virus with luminescence, brought from the institute’s headquarters in Paris. “The discovery of the mechanism of interaction between a microorganism and the brain can lead to the potential for the development of new drugs and therapies”, says immunologist Paola Minóprio, director of the Institut Pasteur in São Paulo.

According to her, the cost of producing this type of technology in Brazil is very expensive. In this sense, having a unit at the renowned research center in São Paulo makes it easier not only to send samples but also to reproduce these technologies.

The Institut Pasteur de São Paulo is located on the Butantã campus of USP (University of São Paulo), in the west of the capital. There are 17 laboratories, four of which have biosafety level 3.

The creation of the agreement between the Institut Pasteur and USP took place in March 2023, in a ceremony celebrated by governor Tarcísio de Freitas (Republicans), the Secretary of Science, Technology and Innovation of the State of São Paulo, Vahan Agopyan, the president of Fapesp , Marco Antonio Zago, and the dean of USP and professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, Carlos Gilberto Carlotti Junior, at the headquarters of the Institut Pasteur in Paris.

Before that, since 2019, through the Pasteur-USP scientific platform, the two countries collaborated on more than 90 scientific productions. The consolidation of ties between scientific partners and the transformation of the scientific platform into the Institut Pasteur de São Paulo, its own unit, brings the two countries even closer together.

On Wednesday night (27), Macron thanked all the collaboration and was enthusiastic about the new cooperation that could come from the Pasteur unit in São Paulo. “Thank you for all the work done, you are no longer a partner, but a complete Pasteur unit that will have autonomy in the research carried out here. The science produced here is something greater than France-Brazil cooperation, it will produce scientific knowledge that will surpass generations and become a common humanitarian gain”, said the French president.

Mini brains are reproductions of the organ created in the laboratory and that mimic the three-dimensional characteristics of a real organ. They help scientists understand, for example, drug effects and other biochemical mechanisms without the need to use animal guinea pigs or in vitro cells.

The research is coordinated by virologist Patricia Braga, professor in the microbiology department at the ICB (Institute of Biomedical Sciences) at USP, who develops the organoids from stem cells.

In addition to the neurodevelopmental effects of virus infections, scientists also intend to study the effects of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, and the genetic and environmental causes involved in autism spectrum disorder.

According to Minóprio, some viral infections can increase the symptoms of the autistic condition, so studying them will be essential. “These are diseases that, over time, can affect the body [degenerativas], such as Alzheimer’s, and others that are not diseases, such as autism, but have an effect on the cerebral nervous system. So we decided to focus our activity on emerging and re-emerging tropical diseases that could lead to brain impairment, whether during neurodevelopment or aging,” she says.

The Institut Pasteur is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to scientific research and the development of vaccines and therapies to prevent and combat infectious and non-infectious diseases, with a focus on public health. It was founded in 1888 in the French capital and currently has 32 units associated with the Pasteur chain around the world.

In addition to the unit at USP, Fiocruz (Fundação Oswaldo Cruz), in Rio de Janeiro, and the Butantan Institute, in São Paulo, are also partners of the Pasteur network in Brazil.

The researcher also highlights the importance of studying neglected tropical diseases, such as Chagas disease. “We will also try to develop mini bovine brains to see how the protozoan also works in these animals.”

For Carlos Gilberto Carlotti Junior, dean of USP, the creation of the unit at USP places Brazil strategically in the study of other infectious diseases and viruses, including for the preparation of future pandemics. “The next pandemic will occur, we just don’t know when and where it will be, but as soon as it occurs we will be prepared, within a network of 32 global research units, to have a suitable response, including the potential for production and development of vaccines.”


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