DNA Mutation May Provide HIV Defense

LOS ANGELES - Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles report finding a genetic defense mechanism in monkeys that may prevent illness caused by AIDS infection.

The natural substance found in the bone marrow of rhesus monkeys is called retrocyclin. The researchers have found that the substance probably was produced by humans thousands of years ago, but the gene has since mutated. Humans do have a variety of these "defensins," that naturally protect the body from a variety of viruses and bacteria. However, any natural defense against AIDS that is present in monkeys has since mutated in humans.

The defense found in these rhesus monkeys, called RD-1, may be responsible for protecting the animals from illness after they are exposed to the AIDS virus. After a closer look at the genetic makeup of RD-1, the team found a similar pattern 90 percent identical in humans. They took this gene sequence and patterned it to resemble RTD-1 by manipulating the code, bending it into a circle and then folding the circle of genes. The result may be the human defensin that mutated eons ago.

The scientists then took this altered sequence and added it to a laboratory dish of HIV cells. They report the virus was inhibited.