Mice lacking a key protein stay cool after being given the recreational drug ecstasy, according to a Brief Communication in Nature (Vol. 426, No. 6965, 27 Nov 03; pp. 403-404). The discovery may lead the way to counteracting the potentially lethal hyperthermia induced by this drug.
Most ecstasy-related deaths occur because the body overheats. In turn, skeletal muscle breaks down and organs fail. Mice lacking the mitochondrial protein UCP-3 heat up less after they have been injected with ecstasy, say Jon Sprague and colleagues. The animals also survive doses that kill some normal rodents.
UCP-3 is found in skeletal muscle, where it is thought to regulate body temperature. The same molecule may mediate the temperature rise that occurs after ecstasy ingestion, the authors speculate.
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