Improbable Research: Psychotherapy for rats

Genes are not destiny in determining whether a person will suffer from depression, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study. Environment is a major factor, and nurture can override nature.

When rats genetically bred for depression received the equivalent of rat “psychotherapy,” their depressed behavior was alleviated. And, after the depressed rats had the therapy, some of their blood biomarkers for depression changed to non-depressed levels.

The environment can modify a genetic predisposition to depression,” said lead study investigator Eva Redei, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine…

BONUS QUESTION: If you are a psychiatrist who successfully — and on a regular basis — supplies psychotherapy to rats, we would like to hear details of your methods and of your billing rates.

Um, OK.

Mexican construction worker raises his flag on Trump Tower

Click to enlarge

A Mexican construction worker has displayed the Mexican flag at the top of the Trump Tower in Vancouver to protest about the Republican front-runner’s attacks on the character of his fellow ex-patriot workers.

Explaining the motivation behind the stunt, Reyna wrote that he was taking a stand not just for Mexicans but on behalf of all immigrant workers who felt they had been unfairly demonised by Trump.

❝ “The comments Trump has made about us, did not stop us from doing the high quality work we have always done, in our home country or when we migrate to the US/Canada,” he commented on Facebook…“The insults you have said about us, have not changed our work ethics. While working on your tower Mexicans didn’t steal anything nor raped anyone, we just did the best work we could possibly do, for ourselves, our families and the future tenants in your building.”

Reyna is originally from Chiapas in Mexico but has been a permanent resident of Canada since 2011. He did not work on Trump Tower, but says he knows many people who have.

“I have tons of friends who work on that site, and they wanted to do something but they were too scared to try anything,” he told BBC Trending. “They are scared of losing their resident permits or having consequences. I did this for them.”

Bravo! Trump and his class are vindictive enough to threaten the lives and livelihood of anyone working under their thumb. I praise Diego Reyna for taking care of business for his brothers and sisters.

You are what your parents ate — uh-oh!

Click to enlargeLaurentiu Garofeanu

For its studies, the team of the Institute of Experimental Genetics used mice that had become obese and had developed type 2 diabetes due to a high-fat diet. Their offspring were obtained solely through in vitro fertilization from isolated oocytes and sperm, so that changes in the offspring could only be passed on via these cells. The offspring were carried and born by healthy surrogate mothers. This enabled the researchers to rule out additional factors such as the behavior of the parents and influences of the mother during pregnancy and lactation.

❝ “The results showed that both oocytes and sperm passed on epigenetic information, which particularly in the female offspring led to severe obesity,” said Prof. Johannes Beckers, who directed the study. In the male offspring, by contrast, the blood glucose level was more affected than in the female siblings. The data also show that — like in humans — the maternal contribution to the change in metabolism in the offspring is greater than the paternal contribution.

“This kind of epigenetic inheritance of a metabolic disorder due to an unhealthy diet could be another major cause for the dramatic global increase in the prevalence of diabetes since the 1960s,” said Prof. Martin Hrabe de Angelis, director of the IEG and initiator of the study. The increase in diabetic patients observed throughout the world can hardly be explained by mutations in the genes themselves (DNA) because the increase has been too fast. Since epigenetic inheritance — as opposed to genetic inheritance — is in principle reversible, new possibilities to influence the development of obesity and diabetes arise from these observations…

In their theories on heredity and evolution, both Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin explicitly stated that characteristics and traits that parents acquire during their lifetime through interaction with the environment could be passed on to their offspring. It was not until the neo-Darwinist “Synthetic Theory of Evolution,” which combines the theories of natural selection by Darwin and of genetics by Gregor Mendel, that the inheritance of acquired traits was rejected. “From the perspective of basic research, this study is so important because it proves for the first time that an acquired metabolic disorder can be passed on epigenetically to the offspring via oocytes and sperm – similar to the ideas of Lamarck and Darwin,” said Professor Johannes Beckers.

In contrast to genetics, the term epigenetics refers to the inheritance of traits that are not determined in the primary sequence of the DNA (the genes). So far, RNA transcripts and chemical modifications of the chromatin (e.g. on the DNA or the histones) have been considered as carriers of this epigenetic information.

An interesting opening to another corridor of the preservation and expansion of human health. Given that our medical-industrial complex is mostly interested in symptomatic profiteering, I doubt there will be serious investment in this research from Big Pharma.

People staying sick longer is always more profitable.