Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), have successfully transferred the memory of one sea snail to another. A scientific feat that gives hope to treat neurodegenerative diseases, ultimately, on humans.
You probably know someone who suffers from some neurodegenerative disease, like Alzheimer’s disease. What if their memory could restored? If this seems impossible, US researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have taken a first step in this direction. On Monday, May 14, they announced that they had managed to transfer memories from one sea snail to another. The results of the study are published in the eNeuro magazine.
It is obvious that snails do not have as large of memories as we do. But to create them, the researchers divided a group of these gastropods in two. The memory of the first group was stimulated by receiving weak electric shocks on the tail. This, in order to create a defensive reflex.
Next, the scientists extracted the ribonucleic acid (RNA) from the nervous system of the snails of the first group, to transfer them to those of the second group. Ribonucleic acid is an essential link in the synthesis of proteins, but also in the transport of genetic messages.
“Twenty-four hours later, we tested the reflexes of these snails: they had the same reflex of defense as those to whom we had given the electric shocks,” says David L. Glanzmann, one of the main authors of the study and member of the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology at UCLA.
Obviously, it would take years, if not decades, to see this technique applied to humans. The nervous system of the snail, and in particular the sea snail, is much less complex than ours.
But these results still give hope to researchers, especially in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. “If we could identify the part of the ribonucleic acid that allows the formation of memories, we could find more effective treatments against dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s,” says David L. Glanzmann.