May 15, 2018

Injections may transplant memories between sea snails

A green neon sea snail. Photo: Prisma Bildagentur/UIG via Getty Images

Researchers claim to have transplanted a specific memory between sea snails using RNA injections, reports the Guardian.

Why it matters: If the findings of the new study in the journal eNeuro are eventually proven to be accurate — something some scientists express doubt over — it could prompt a rethinking of the concept of memories.

The backdrop: The scientists, led by UCLA neurobiologist David Glanzman, theorized that some memories are encoded in an organism's genetic makeup, and not just in their brain.

What they did, per the Guardian:

  • Glanzman implanted wires into the tails of two California sea hares and gave them a series of electric shocks to sensitize them and trigger a defense mechanism.
  • Researchers extracted RNA from these sea snails and injected it into others that had not been exposed to the shocks. They found they became sensitized as well and showed the same defense mechanism.

What they're saying: Other researchers aren't convinced that this hypothesis rings true. Some told the Guardian that there may be a switch in the snails triggered by the RNA that causes the snails to become defensive, but it may not be the same thing as transplanting a memory.

Yes, but: Tomás Ryan, a scientist studying memory, said radical thought is needed in the field, even if hypotheses like the one in this study are eventually proven to be flawed. He told the Guardian:

"In a field like this which is so full of dogma, where we are waiting for people to retire so we can move on, we need as many new ideas as possible."

Go deeper

Judge rules against Trump policy limiting public comment on energy leasing

Photo: Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday overturned a 2018 Trump administration directive that sought to speed up energy leases on public land by limiting the amount of time the public could comment.

Why it matters: U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush's decision voids almost a million acres of leases in the West, according to The Washington Post. It's a victory for environmentalists, who tried to block the change as part of an effort to protect the habitat of the at-risk greater sage grouse.

  • The ruling invalidated five oil and gas leases in Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, and affected 104,688 square miles of greater sage-grouse habitat, per The Associated Press.
  • Leases in greater sage-grouse habitat will return to allowing 30 days of public comment and administrative protest.

The big picture: From Axios' Amy Harder, this is the latest in a long and convoluted list of regulatory rollbacks the Trump administration is pursuing on environmental rules that courts are, more often than not, rebutting. With Congress gridlocked on these matters, expect the courts to be the default way Trump's agenda faces checks (unless, of course, a Democrat wins the White House this November).

Your best defense against coronavirus

Photo: Adrian Greeman/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

Washing your hands is the best way to protect against the novel coronavirus, according to doctors and health officials, as the virus continues to spread around the globe.

Why it matters: Frequent hand washing can stop germs from spreading in a community, a known preventative for COVID-19 and influenza.

Major League Soccer embarks on its 25th season

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Major League Soccer begins its 25th season, the league is financially stable and surging in popularity, and its 26 teams have gorgeous facilities and rapidly increasing valuations.

  • It also continues to expand, with David Beckham's Inter Miami and Nashville SC set to debut this season as the 25th and 26th teams. Plans are in place to reach 30 franchises by 2022 — triple the number from 2004.
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