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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

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

7 hours ago - Health

Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.

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