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Heparin protects human neural progenitor cells from Zika Virus-induced cell death and preserves their differentiation into mature neural-glia cells

By Isabel Pagani, Linda Ottoboni, Paola Podini, Silvia Ghezzi, Elena Brambilla, Svetlana Bezukladova, Davide Corti, Marco Emilio Bianchi, Maria Rosaria Capobianchi, Edwin A Yates, Gianvito Martino, Elisa Vicenzi

Posted 05 May 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.05.05.442746

Zika virus (ZIKV) is an arbovirus member of the Flaviviridae family that causes severe congenital brain anomalies in infected fetuses. Human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs) are highly permissive to ZIKV infection, causing inhibition of cell proliferation concomitant with an induction of cell death. We previously demonstrated that pharmaceutical-grade heparin inhibited virus-induced cell death with minor effects on in vitro virus replication in ZIKV-infected hNPCs. Here we show that heparin prevented ZIKV-induced intracellular vacuoles, a signature characteristic of paraptosis, but also inhibited necrosis and apoptosis of hNPCs when grown as neurospheres (NS). Furthermore, heparin preserved the differentiation of both ZIKV-infected human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) derived-NPCs and fetus-derived NPCs into neural-glial cells. Collectively, these results highlight the potential neuroprotective effect of heparin that could be re-purposed and exploited to drive the development of novel agents for preventing ZIKV damage.

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