There is an adage that says, ‘Memories are fleeting’. This may or not be true depending on the person.
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), however, may have just proven that certain types of memories are permanent and may be etched in our biological make up.
In a story by Live Science, it is reported that the UCLA team has extracted the imprinted memories of one snail and implanted them in another. Following tests, it was shown that the specific memory of snail #1 was alive and well in snail #2.
The process went something like this:
Snail #1 was subjected to repeated electrical shocks to its posterior, a stimulus that caused the mollusk to retract the fleshy extensions, or parapodium, of the snail that exist outside of the shell. This frequent stimuli triggered the etching of the reaction into the RNA molecules of the snail.
After a period of time, the scientists extracted some RNA in a process called transcriptome [genetic] transfer and placed some in snail #2 and some on a bundle of neurons in a prepared petri dish.
The second snail and the petri dish neurons were then zapped and they exhibited the response of maintaining a prolonged retraction of the parapodium that was achieved in snail #1. The control group were snails and isolated neurons that had not been zapped.
Live Science writes that, “When the RNA came from a snail that hadn’t been zapped, the memory recipients acted ‘naive,’ retracting their parapodia only briefly after a zap, as if no more zaps were coming. But when snails were exposed to the RNA from a snail that had been zapped, they retracted their parapodia for longer periods after zaps.”
“This is important, because it says it’s not just [any implanted RNA] that is producing widespread excitability in neurons,”explained David Glanzman, study author and a neuroscientist and integrative biologist at UCLA.
“This paper describes potentially transformative findings on whether memory could be transplanted through ,” said Sathya Puthanveettil, a neuroscientist at the Scripps Research Institute in California who studies memory, but who was not involved in the study.
As with any new scientific advance, more work needs to be done.
“At the moment, we do not have much mechanistic insight about how this memory transfer is achieved,” Puthanveettil told Live Science. “We would need more confirmatory experiments to validate these findings in other models.”
Glanzman, however, insists that his teams findings are the real thing.
“In my opinion, we’re spending way too much time and money studying synaptic connections, and way not enough money studying these RNA-based changes and epigenetics,” said Glanzman. Epigenetics is the study of how cells interact with their genetic code.
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