United States scientists transfer memory from one snail to another by transplanting RNA

RNA Moves a Memory From One Snail to Another

UCLA biologists report they have transferred a memory from one marine snail to another, creating an artificial memory, by injecting RNA from one to another.

To treat memory-related illnesses in humans, we've first got to understand how the brain stores memories in the first place.

Study coauthor David Glanzman of the University of California, Los Angeles, has been working on the cell biology of learning and memory for almost 40 years, and says for the majority of that time he believed memory was stored at synapses. The group's examination is distributed May 14 in eNeuro, the online diary of the Society for Neuroscience. RNAs are effectively the messenger that carry out the instructions coded into our DNA. They used small electric shocks to sea sails called Aplysia californica. The snails received five tail shocks, one every 20 minutes, and then five more 24 hours later.

And, of course, the RNA of untrained snails didn't have this effect on the sensory neurons. Sticking electrodes in the snail's tail and shocking it makes this defensive response last longer, tens of seconds, and sometimes up to nearly a minute. After these shocks were administered. the snail's defensive withdrawal reflex - where the snails contract in order to protect themselves from harm.

A second, untrained, group of snails only retreated for 1 second upon receiving a tap. "It's interesting, but I don't think they've transferred a memory", he said. Like all mollusks, these snails have groups of neurons called ganglia, rather than brains.

The teams then extracted the RNA from the snails that had been given the shocks and inserted them into a group of snails that hadn't.

Glanzman wanted to know if the RNA from shocked snails actually affected the neuronal connections of the snails receiving the injections any differently than RNA from nonshocked snails.




Scientists have found that for the production of reflex answer sensory neurons, which are excitable in the presence of certain RNA. RNA from shocked snails also enhanced a subset of synapses between sensory and motor neurons in vitro, suggesting it was indeed the RNA that transported the memory, Glanzman explains. (Each neuron has several thousand synapses.) Glanzman holds a different view, believing that memories are stored in the nucleus of neurons.

He also stressed that the snails did not get hurt: "These are marine snails and when they are alarmed they release a handsome purple ink to hide themselves from predators".

Researchers say the cells and molecular processes of snails are similar to that of humans. In fact in 2014 his team had already published a paper which implied that lost memories could be restored.

There are many kinds of RNA, and in future research, Glanzman wants to identify the types of RNA that can be used to transfer memories.

Co-creators are Alexis Bédécarrats, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher who worked in Glanzman's lab; and Shanping Chen, Kaycey Pearce and Diancai Cai, examine relates in Glanzman's lab.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation.

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