MEMORY STORAGE IN THE DNA

DNA

Researches at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA, believe they have found evidence that memories might be passed down through generations in our DNA. In an article published in Nature entitled Parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations they examine the inheritance of parental traumatic exposure, that is to say the progeny or offspring remember the trauma or stressful experience that their parents were exposed to. It seems that researchers in the field come across evidence of this quite often, but it is poorly understood how this can possibly occur. Somehow the memory of the traumatic experience must be passed on in the genes.

In their paper the researchers describe how they condition the parent mice to fear a certain odor, in this case the smell of cherry blossom, and not only did the next two generations of their progeny specifically fear this same odor, but the researchers state that they observed “an enhanced neuroanatomical representation” of the specific gene for the olfactory receptor. In other words this specific fear had somehow become encoded in the DNA that went on into the progeny.

This research suggests that experiences are transferred from the brain into the genome, and these researchers are now continuing their studies to try to understand how information about life experiences could possibly come to be stored in the DNA. Specifically how can it be that our memories are stored in the genetic material that becomes passed on to subsequent generations. I feel I can contribute to this debate in two ways. Firstly it is now known that human thought can actually change the genes, and secondly the very architecture of the DNA packaged in the chromosomes strongly suggests that the DNA is actually made up of millions and millions of memristors, which is actually a new form of memory storage actually being developed in the computer industry. I shall deal with these two aspects in turn.

“Genes controlled by human thought!” This is the title of an article in New Scientist magazine, 15 November 2014. It relates a landmark discovery by a team led by Dr. Martin Fussenegger, a bioengineer at ETH Zurich in Basel, Switzerland. So what did Dr. Fussenegger and his team actually do. He himself states, “We wanted to be able to use brainwaves to control genes. It’s the first time anyone has linked synthetic biology and the mind.”

The Fussenegger team implanted some human kidney cells under the skin of a mouse. In these human cells they had also inserted a gene that was responsive to infrared light. When this gene is activated it causes a cascade of chemical reactions that will lead to the activation of another gene which we will call their target gene. This is the actual gene they wanted to switch on. Also in the mouse alongside the implanted cells they put an infrared LED that could be controlled wirelessly.

They then went about getting some characteristic brainwaves from some human volunteers. The volunteers were taught to produce a “relaxed” pattern of brainwaves from meditation techniques, and they played computer games to produce “deep concentration” brainwaves, and they were taught a technique known as “biofeedback” where they learnt to control their thoughts in such a way as to be able to switch on a set of lights on a computer. These human volunteers were wearing EEG devices that were linked wirelessly to the LED implanted in the mouse, and when that was switched on by any one of these three mental states, it activated the light-responsive gene which in turn started the gene cascade and led to the activation of their target gene, hence their claim that human brainwaves can control genes.

The implant in the mouse was encased in a semi-permeable membrane that allowed nutrients from the animal’s blood supply to reach the cells inside and also allowed proteins produced in the implant to pass into the bloodstream. When the target gene was activated it produced a human protein that passed into the rodent’s bloodstream. Dr. Fussenegger says: “We picked a protein that made an enzyme that was easy to identify in the mouse as proof of concept, but essentially we think we could switch on any target gene we liked.”

“Memristors” are four decades in the making, but it turns out that this fourth kind of circuit element (beyond the inductor, capacitor, and resistor) might have more potential to change computing than even its creators first believed, says Discovery Magazine.

In a study announced in the prestigious science journal Nature, researchers with Hewlett-Packard reported that they have built a memristor capable of performing Boolean algebra operations. Boolean algebra is the essence of computer processing. The computer will know what to write depending on whether a current is flowing in one circuit AND/OR another. Essentially a memristor is a circuit that can remember the resistance it encountered previously before the current was turned off. The Hewlett-Packard team have built a device that can perform logic operations based on the resistance it encountered previously. The name memristor has been coined from “memory” and “resistor.”

The possibility of creating memristors was first put forward by Leon O. Chua back in 1971. Before this announcement by the Hewlett-Packard team, it was thought that they could be just another kind of memory; in other words, simply passive storage of data. However, it is now evident that memristors have the capacity to perform logic, which means that they have the capacity to process information and not simply store it. This opens up the prospect of building chips that can both perform calculations and hold data; in other words, a chip that will act as both CPU (Central Processing Unit) and memory storage. For conventional computers, processing and memory storage are separate operations.

This prospect of a chip that can both perform processing and store data is thought to be what occurs in a biological supercomputer such as the human brain. These are obviously the sort of capacities one would expect to find in a biological supercomputer, and indeed Chua is reported as saying, “Our brains are made of memristors. We have the right stuff now to build real brains.” What he didn’t seem to realize is that potentially the DNA, not just of human beings, but of all living creatures (including plants) is made of memristors.

The molecular structure of DNA is essentially cylindrical or tunnel shaped with a double helix architecture, which bears some similarities to carbon nanotubes that are used as semiconductors in so much of modern electronics, including transistors, quantum dots and digital and analog integrated circuits. Nucleosomal fiber consists of millions of discreet solenoid coils where the DNA string is tightly looped around a protein (histone) core. The DNA coil is negatively charged due to the phosphate groups in its backbone. Also, DNA has many polar molecules, which are molecules that have charges that are unevenly distributed. The histone core is positively charged. There are therefore myriads of localized potential differences (voltage) in chromatin, which will enable currents to flow in very complex ways. DNA is actually used as an electronic circuit in nanoparticles. In fact, it is said to be “the best known nanowire in existence”. Measurements of DNA viruses have revealed that high currents flow through DNA molecules.

To my mind, this network of millions of mini coils in the nucleosomal fiber would act as an incredibly complex and intricate circuit of inductors (electromagnetic force (EMF) generated in coils). In a string of mini coils like that, you are going to get self-inductance and mutual inductance as well as back EMF on a scale quite unimaginable. The plethora of localized voltage differences would seem to indicate millions of intertwined RL (Resistor-Inductor) circuits. These mini solenoid coils would all have a precise magnetic moment, and their histone core has a relative permeability that enables ‘histone H1-conjugated superparamagnetic nanoparticles’ to be used as magnetic tracers to detect concentrations of DNA. A superparamagnetic core of histones will have the effect of substantially increasing the magnetic field within the solenoid. The electromagnetic properties of chromatin are indisputable. It is likewise indisputable that the chromatin would be a most suitable milieu for memristors to operate in storing data.

In a recent study, Electric oscillation and coupling of chromatin regulate chromosome packaging and transcription in eukaryotic cells, which appears in Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, are to be found some very curious facts about the electromagnetic properties of DNA. For example, link DNA is said to zigzag back and forth between ‘stacks’ of these mini coils as well as the histone cores of the mini coils linking with each other. There is said to be a ‘permanent dipole moment’ between each mini coil which is said to generate ‘electric dipolar oscillation’ between them. The capacity for mutual induction of emf in the nucleosomal fiber would be virtually infinite. In addition the current that has been detected in the nucleosomal fiber is ‘oscillating’; that is to say, it is an alternating current with frequencies between 2 and 50MHz. The frequencies are said to vary from region to region in the chromatin depending on the ‘DNA-protein complexes in that region’. As this is essentially an alternating current, it is suggested that the mere fact of the DNA synthesizing the superparamagnetic histone core, and then coiling itself around the core, and then all these coils ‘clustering’ into ‘stacks’ in the nucleosomal fiber, would be sufficient to generate a self-perpetuating current.

Another most curious item that emerges in that study is that when the chromatin is not in M-phase - that is, when the chromosomes are not tightly compacted for the purpose of cell division - the chromosomes appear to relax or unwind in the nucleus, and it is during this phase that the non-coding sections of the DNA (the ‘junk DNA’) adopt the quaint custom of ‘chromosome kissing’ where these ‘introns’ on several different chromosomes will be seen to cozy up to each other based on their oscillating natural frequencies. What sort of electrical forces and emf are being generated during these chromosome kissing sessions is anybody’s guess. Given, however, the electromagnetic complexity of nucleosomal fiber, it is my guess that the forces would be mind-blowing. At the very least the mere proximity to each other of several chromosomes, with their respective potent ‘junk’ electromagnetic fields, would be sufficient to generate a current.

Space prevents me from going into this matter in any more detail. I feel however that I have told you enough for you to be able to understand firstly how life experiences, and specifically stressful or traumatic experiences, can actually bring about changes in our DNA so that in fact memories of these experiences can actually be passed on to our offspring. The simple fact is that our own brain waves are capable of regulating gene expression, and secondly, how memories in general can actually be specifically stored in the DNA as data. Mind you, the fact that the computer industry is now coming to use these memristors to store and process data, merely means that are starting to discover the actual biological computing processes at work in Nature. We should never assume that humans are actually inventing new and novel techniques for the storage of data. In my book The Spiritual Genome I deal with these issues of the storage and processing of data in the DNA in much greater detail, as well as much wider questions, such as: “May our DNA be also carrying spiritual and cosmic memories passed down in the genes from our ancestors?”