Genetic Marginalia
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Science

Genetic Marginalia

Can We Really Inherit Memories?
January Weiner
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Can we inherit memories? According to classical Darwinism: no. Yet sometimes the lived experiences of parents are echoed in their children.

As with many stories in biology, this one begins with mice. A few years ago, the American scientists Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler showed that mice can inherit some olfactory associations. The lab animals were exposed to acetophenone (a chemical compound that smells of dried roses), which was paired with small electric shocks. The mice soon developed a fear response to the smell. This wouldn’t be at all unusual, had it not been for the next stage of the experiment.

The mice – only males were selected in order to control for the effects of pregnancy and caring for pups – became the fathers of the next generation. As it turned out, this generation inherited their parents’ fear of smell, despite never having any contact with acetophenone or being negatively conditioned by the scientists. Moreover, not only the pups born through in vitro fertilization

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The Surprising Connections Between Species
Mikołaj Golachowski

Wolves help forests grow, old ladies save bumblebees, and whales increase the fish population despite eating them. The connections between various species are subtle and often surprising. Even humans, at some point during evolution, merged with certain bacteria and viruses that are intimately assimilated with our bodies today.

Ozyorsk is a city in Chelyabinsk Oblast in Russia, where plutonium factories used to operate. Radioactive particles are still present in the water and earth to this day. The locals often complained about chronic pain, tiredness and problems with their circulation, digestion and immune system. However, doctors failed to find any explicit links between the ailments and radiation. They didn’t detect any cancerous changes typically caused by radioactivity. And because the symptoms didn’t fit the diagnostic criteria, patients were sent away feeling neglected and betrayed.

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