AIDS MYSTERY One of the great mysteries about AIDS is why some people (about 1% or 2%) who get infected with the virus never develop the disease. For more than 15 years, scientists have searched for the chemical factors that protect these so-called long-term nonprogressors, and now a team of researchers including Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, think they have found them. Using new protein-chip technology, they have identified three proteins--alpha-defensins 1, 2 and 3--that are present in nonprogressors but not in AIDS patients. The defensins, which are well known as natural bacteria fighters, could offer scientists a promising new focus for drug design. "This is not going to be the ultimate solution," says Ho, "but it's another weapon we can use in our arsenal against HIV."
ECSTASY SHAKES Experimenting with ecstasy may not be as risk-free as some users believe. A new study says popping two or three pills in one night can cause enough damage to dopamine neurons in the brain to lead to parkinsonism--a condition similar to Parkinson's disease that is characterized by tremors, sluggishness and balance problems. Scientists at Johns Hopkins arrived at this conclusion by studying the effects of high doses of ecstasy on squirrel monkeys and baboons, but believe the results may apply to humans as well. --BY SORA SONG
Sources: Science (2)