Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Maternal Instincts Diminished

Not a care in the world would be a great place to live right? Well not if you need to protect your newborns. In a study shown here, professor Shumyatsky at the school of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers, engineered mice to have an inactive stathmin gene. This gene, located in the amygdale, essentially takes away fear.

In this experiment pups were places outside of the nest and their mother was to bring them back to the nest, with the fear that if the pups weren’t in the nest and under the mother’s protection they would be readily available to predation. In the control the pups were received very quickly but in the genetically altered mice the mothers didn’t seem to see the problem with the pups being out for a long time and simply took their time in protecting the pups.

By just changing one gene researchers have changed many behaviors that help wild animals survive. In addition to this maternal instinct, by changing the ‘fear gene’ many mice became much more social, to the point of not being cautious of their surrounding or the animals and other mice that they were interacting with. The next step to this research may be seeing if humans may have this ‘fear gene’ and how big of a role does it play out in everyday behavior.


Many people have mentioned, wondering how this would be applicable to study in humans. I do not think that it will be done for some time but since everyone has different fear limitations I think that we could simply look at the human genome to see if we have differences in our genes. But this of course would take a long time to even figure out the right place to look on the genome for a particular gene or genes. I feel that this study in humans is a long way off, if it would even happen being kind of ethically questionable.

Amanda Joyce (3)


At 7:24 PM, Blogger PWH said...

That is horrible. Some times scientists do too many of these crazy experiments and really put animals at risk. It makes me wonder if they remove these genes and then reproduce, will the offspring suffer the same problems? I suppose it wouldn't matter considering the upbringing would be so different to that of normal mice.

-Michele Copeland

At 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This experiment is intriguing. I never would of thought, or would want to, of testing this. Luckily, these altered mice who have "no cares" are not wild mice, but laboratory mice. It is very interesting how this relates back to humans and how they are curious if we have a gene like that. I would think we would, just because if you observe a shy person, who generally is afraid of others in some way or another, is a lot less social and fearful, but then if you were to take that trait away, I would suspect that they would become very outgoing. Do you think it's realistic to research on humans, and how do you think they would do the experiment? I know I sure wouldn't sign up to be messed with!

Katie Cole

At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is scary how experiments like this take place. If we can do this with mice, I wonder what else we can do with our new knowledge of genetics as a society. Were there any other controversial genetic tests like this at the university?
Very interesting find!

Mia DiFabbio

At 6:46 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:17 AM, Blogger PWH said...

Thats so amazing to think that one gene is responsible for all that. I'm very curious to see if that holds true in humans too. Its a little scary think that one gene could possibly control someone's fear and have adverse effects on their social life.

-Joanne Philippeaux

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very interesting, I had heard about this being done where the mice were then not afraid of predators such as cats. This seems like it could cause a realy problem if it happened in nature. I wonder if this could work in other species as well.

Erica Damon

At 5:35 PM, Blogger PWH said...

these tests have been done on many animals and a lot of them work but not all of them work on humans, i wonder if this one would. if it is possible, i dont think the results would be pleasant, and probably the negative affects are going to be more than the positive ones. not looking forward to the day these tests being done on humans!

Hessom Minaei

At 12:49 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Very intersting article topic and article. I never thought fear was something to be controlled by a gene. It's seems more like something that would simply develop as something an animal would learn naturally over time. It's amazing that it can just be turned off like that, but a little scary at the same time especially considering possible research on humans.

-Benjamin Spozio

At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rats are a good model organism for humans because they are vertebrate mammals. They are the subject of genetic manipulation in laboratories all over the world for the purpose of understanding genetic pathways of interest.
Marathon mice and shwarzenegger mice have been engineered by knocking out regulatory genes and allowing muscles to grow unimpeded and red blood cells to be made in greater numbers. Amazing things have been done to rats in the name of science, but the ones that are most interesting are the mind altering genetic manipulations. There is no scientific theory that says that which can be done to rats cannot be done to humans, so when brain function is messed with in rats, it makes me think about the future of the human race. Perhaps genetic manipulations to fertilized human eggs will cure mental disorders such as A.D.D., alcoholism, depression, anxiety, etc.

Jordan Grinstein

At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is really interesting! I wonder how they would test humans for this, without removing the gene itself? (I hope they wouldn't!)As for the mice, if they reproduced, would their offspring be born without this gene? I also wonder if mice are the only animals they have tested it on...

Alyson Paige

At 10:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've heard a lot about research being done in recent years where they just knock out one gene and completely change the behavior of a species. It is amazing that one single change may control a complex behavior or trait such as fear. But I doubt that the same results would be produced if this was done on humans since we are much more complex. The "fearless" mice will have normal offspring, I assume, because this is not a hereditary trait. Interesting article.

Hanbing Guo

At 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very interesting although I find a lot of danger in figuring out whether it is the same for humans. What would we be like without fear? I think the death rate charts would go wayyy up. Being fearless would turn our "civil society" upside down. No one would care about laws, regulations, or even dying. With no fear there are no limits. Even though it would be great to not fear heights or doctors, we really need to be careful what we wish for...

Brena Sena

At 11:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article mentioned that the mice missing the fear gene would be more likely to retrieve their babies if they were put in the nest first before they were dispersed. The mice were "reminded" of their duties almost. I thought this was interesting. Does this mean that the mice could relearn to be afraid? Are there other genes that control the fear response as well? When the fearless mice realize that they should be keeping their babies in the nest with them is that because there other instincts are kicking in and not because they realize the danger of having the babies out in the open? I wonder how the mice would act in general, if they would be more active and explore more or what.

Rachel Carboni


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