Snail Memory Transplant Performed Using RNA, Scientists Say

Snail Memory Transplant Performed Using RNA, Scientists Say

When Glanzman repeated the experiment with RNA from sea snails that had been hooked up to wires but not shocked, the reflex behaviour did not transfer.

What are memories made of?

Scientists have successfully transferred a memory from one marine snail to another - but there's still a long way to go until you can pay someone to wipe unpleasant memories or implant new ones a la Total Recall, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.


"It's as though we transferred the memory."


David Glanzman is the leader of the team of researchers and a biologist at the University of California (Los Angeles).

In the field of neuroscience, it has always been thought that memories are stored in synapses.

"It was completely arbitrary which synaptic connections got erased", Glanzman says.

Recent studies have found that long-term memory can be restored after amnesia with the aid of a priming component. Each neuron has several thousand synapses. He picked Aplysia because it has been a longtime model organism for memory studies.

As expected, the control group of snails did not display the lengthy contraction.

The slugs have simple central nervous systems and large nerve cells that make experimental manipulation easier.

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Meanwhile, the untrained snails who had received RNA from untrained donors did not exhibit any change in their defensive response.

When touched lightly on the siphon, the neurons fire, retract the tissue, and contract the gill within the body cavity for a few seconds to protect it against attack.

For the next step, RNA was extracted from both the trained and untrained snails.

This idea is probably going to strike most of my colleagues as extremely improbable.

At the point when a marine snail is given electric tail stuns, its tangible neurons turn out to be more edgy.

A second, untrained, group of snails only retreated for 1 second upon receiving a tap.

DNA methylation appeared to be essential for the transfer of the memory among snails. Including RNA from a marine snail that was not given the tail stuns did not deliver this expanded edginess in tactile neurons. They used small electric shocks to sea sails called Aplysia californica.

The trained RNA also increased the excitability of cultured sensory neurons, obtained from untrained animals, which control this reflex all of which raises the possibility that RNA could be used to modify memory in other organisms, including us.

However UCLA's work seems to contradict this. Kaang notes there are "many critical questions that need to be addressed to further validate the author's argument", such as what kinds of noncoding RNAs are specifically involved, how are the RNAs transferred among neurons, and how much do RNAs at the synapse play a role?

In a statement for The Guardian, Glanzman commented on the nature of the experiment, noting that the type of memories that were transplanted from one snail to another was crucial to the success of the procedure. Instead, Glanzman believes they may be storied in the nuclei of neurons, a theory that needs more study to be definitively shown. "But if we're right, we're just at the beginning of understanding how memory works".

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