Genetic Memory Identified in DNA

Image: Wikimedia Commons

James Watson and Francis Crick (right), co-originators of the double-helix model, with Maclyn McCarty (left).

A frequent , but difficult philosophical question is whether human genetics could pass memories or experiences to subsequent generations.  A couple or attempts at answering at least part of that question involved the replication accuracy using DNA as a data storage medium. In a paper published in Nature in January, 2013, scientists from the European Bioinformatics Institute and Agilent Technologies proposed a mechanism to use DNA’s ability to code information as a means of digital data storage. The group was able to encode 739 kilobytes of data into DNA code, synthesize the actual DNA, then sequence the DNA and decode the information back to its original form, with a reported 100% accuracy. The encoded information consisted of text files and audio files. A prior experiment was published in August 2012. It was conducted by researchers at Harvard University, where the text of a 54,000-word book was encoded in DNA. Now, new research indicates it may be possible to both encode and decode either purposeful or inadvertant additions to DNA.

DNA “markings” may transmit learned experiences

 

Dec. 1, 2013
Courtesy of Nature Neuroscience
and World Science staff

Learn­ed ex­pe­ri­ences can be trans­ferred through ge­net­ic struc­tures—not by changes to genes them­selves, but rath­er, to how they’re “marked” by oth­er mole­cules, a study re­ports.

Such “mark­ings” are called epige­net­ic changes. Sci­en­tists in re­cent years have in­creas­ingly rec­og­nized them as play­ing im­por­tant roles in bi­o­log­i­cal in­her­it­ance.

The find­ing that learn­ed ex­pe­ri­ences may be trans­ferred this way is part of a re­cent wave of re­search over­turn­ing what bi­ol­o­gists used to as­sume—that only in­forma­t­ion in the DNA it­self is passed across genera­t­ions. READ MORE

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