From RocketSlinger@SBCGlobal.net  (please email me there with comments if desired)

This web page last updated 19 Sept. 2018

Link to main page: www.rocketslinger.com/

 

A Research Proposal to Investigate A Probably-Crazy-but-Maybe-Not, Neo-Lamarckist Hypothesis

 

Yours Truly, AKA RocketSlinger, will be the first to humbly admit that I am way out of my professional field here, but here goes anyway.  Maybe someone has a rich uncle, or the right connections to find funding to try testing such a wild idea as is described below…  I know for sure that I have neither, so please read the below.

BACKGROUND is as follows:  Lamarckism, what is it?  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarckism and http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/glossary/lamarckism.html or Google it for yourself…  In modern days it may start to become conflated with epigenetics; see  http://www.technologyreview.com/news/411880/a-comeback-for-lamarckian-evolution/ for an example of that.  Also see http://www.precisionnutrition.com/epigenetics-feast-famine-and-fatness ...  Only slightly tangential to the topic is the political abuse of genetic theories; AKA, believing in certain theories because it is “nice” or “politically correct” to believe such things, and cruel or NAZI-like to believe in the real evidence, or, in science practiced honestly.  There’s “nothing new under the sun” here; these kinds of things have been going for a long-long time.  Please (if interested) research “Trofim D. Lysenko”; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trofim_Lysenko for example.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote a wee tad about my good buddy Trofim, who sent his detractors to the Gulag.  Trofim thought that if he threw wheat seeds into snow-banks for long enough, they could learn to grow in the snow, even though any poorly educated Russian farmer could have told him otherwise (in no uncertain words, with some colorful words to boot, I am sure!).  “Stupid” farmer-slobs who questioned Trofim got their just deserts in Siberian slave camps.

And today, in the USA, anyone studying “politically incorrect” subjects cannot get their papers published!  Even if they are factual and dispassionate (not obviously political, or at least not obviously of the WRONG politics).  See for example, http://reason.com/blog/2018/09/10/math-paper-censorship-quillette-pc-left#comment , AKA A Mathematician Says Activists Made His Paper Disappear Because Its Findings Offended Them  At behest of a feminist professor, an academic journal's board reportedly threatened to ‘harass the journal until it died.’  Politics trumps science, and violators are still figuratively sent to the gulag in the USA, as well.  But I digress…  I could digress some more about people formulating Lamarckist theories about cutting the tails off of mice for many generations, and observing the offspring STILL growing tails.  Formulate a stupid experiment, you get stupid results, duh!

For further digression on related topics, and non-mainstream ideas about biology, please read about Rupert Sheldrake in http://discovermagazine.com/2000/aug/featheresy/  and http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/feb/05/rupert-sheldrake-interview-science-delusion .  AND http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-rupert-sheldrake/why-bad-science-is-like-bad-religion_b_2200597.html .

But I am done digressing  REALLY now!

 

NEW WHACK-JOB HYPOTHESIS HERE:  Just suppose (I personally somewhat doubt it is true, but it would be SO cool to discover otherwise) that some animals have come up with some unknown mechanism by which their bodies can correlate nutrient levels in their bloodstream with hormone levels in their bloodstreams, and alter their genetics or epigenetics of their offspring accordingly.  Example:  Rats and growth hormones and testosterone…  Think growth, aggression, “steroid rage”, etc.  Now postulate a sudden change in the environment of the rats:  All their predators are gone, and food is WAY plentiful.  If evolution (AKA Mother Nature or God for the theological-minded) had given the rat’s bodies a way-smart mechanism, the way-smart mechanism might somehow “notice”, so to speak, that when growth and aggression hormones surge in the rats, they eat more food (nutrients in the bloodstream go up).  The rats fight and grow more, they get more food (in that kind of environment).  The rats’ bodies “notice” this correlation, and then through messages sent to their gonads, gametes, methylation of their genes, epigenetics, whatever magic buzzwords you want to attach, they make dang sure that their offspring are yet bigger and more aggressive than they are.  A WAY smart way to rapidly adapt the species to the environment, as you might be able to imagine…

Without much more imagination, way can postulate the inverse…  More and more predators saturate the environment, and food is scarce.  The rats that “learn” via correlation of aggression hormones and food levels…  Pick too many fights, spend too much time letting your wounds heal while you almost starve to death…  These could “learn” that in their newly-changed environment, that they had better be way meek, shy, and secretive, and SMALL, because food is scarce.  Growth and aggression hormones would be negatively correlated with food levels in the bloodstream, and a reproductive mechanism to “read and heed” these signals (and pass them to offspring) would be VERY adaptive.

A testable hypothesis?!?!  Heavens, yes!  Start with two reasonably sized populations of rats, genetically identical from one group to the other, but with a “normal” amount of genetic diversity.  Group “A” of rats shall be the “Lance Armstrong” group of rats.  Momma rats in this group, when pregnant, are given a nice, rich, fat diet for 3 days at a time, while they get growth and aggression hormones injected (testosterone, growth hormones, synthetics, XYZ, sorry, I am not well enough educated in this field to fill in the details).  Then they go on a semi-starvation diet for three days at a time, and they get NO growth and aggression hormones.  Maybe they even get some sort of “downer” or “mellow” hormones during this time (oxytocin, for example).  Cycle repeats for duration of pregnancy…  Then the baby, juvenile, and non-pregnant adults go through similar cycles (cycles being longer and longer in time as they mature), so that adult rats are on, say, 1 month feast cycles with growth and aggression hormones, and one month cycles of famine and NO growth and aggression hormones (plus “downer” hormones if such things are plausible).

The anti-Lance-Armstrong group of rats should be subjected to the exact OPPOSITE treatment…  Feast on the downer-hormones-regime, famine on the growth and aggression hormones regime.  Do this for, say, 11 generations of rats.  On the 12th generation, cease all artificial intervention, and have “blind” and impartial evaluators evaluate their sizes and levels of aggression, between the two groups.

Now, is the hypothesis to be tested here, REALLY all that whacked-out and far-out?  No, on second thought, I really do NOT!  Read http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130710182941.htm and you will see that we collectively have accumulated evidence, for quite some time now, that female mammals have some mysterious way of “choosing” the sex of their offspring.  The mechanism?  Totally unknown…  But the evidence is clear that mammals can do this.  If they can skew the sex of their offspring in response to cues from the environment, then why not the size and level of aggressiveness as well?

Who can fund this?  Please?  It may not pan out at all; I personally suspect it is a long shot.  BUT…  If this thing is REAL…  We’d be way smart (well advised) to know about it!  In the meantime, hopefully, the patent “trolls under the bridge” have hereby been fended off on matters associated with the basic design of this possible experiment…

Here are some related ideas from another contributor (anonymous) :

The social and ethical pressures/environment that parents experience during the course of their lives may be the source of epigenetics. Culture alone may not be responsible for parents and children sharing strengths and weaknesses. The lifestyle choices and actions parents take may help the child “do in Rome as the Romans do” by changing gene regulation and expression through epigenetics. http://hmg.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/R2/R159.full Transposons don’t post yet Transposons may copy a gene that is frequently expressed while the organism is growing so that there are more copy numbers of that gene to better serve the cell/organism’s needs based on its current environment.

The choices an individual makes and what type of environment they expose themselves to may also modify gene methylation and activity/regulation on a daily basis. We do not know how neuroplasticity works, or how the brain can change/heal itself in such amazing ways (see The Brain That Changes Itself), but our lifestyle choices may amplify or silence certain genes.

While the DNA bases themselves do not change, the DNA molecule’s regulation could be much more plastic than we thought it was.

 

Update Add-On as of 14 Sept. 2018

 

Here is something that I have stumbled across in my readings:  See https://www.edge.org/response-detail/25502 by Athena Vouloumanos.  Here is an out-take from there:

 

“But more recent studies–using modern reproduction techniques like in vitro fertilization and proper controls–can physically isolate generations from each other and rule out any kind of social transmission or learning. For example, mice that were fear-conditioned to an otherwise neutral odor produced baby mice that also feared that odor. Their grandbaby mice feared it too. But unlike in Pavlov's studies, communication couldn’t be the explanation. Because the mice never fraternized, and cross-fostering experiments further ruled out social transmission, the newly acquired specific fear had to be encoded in their biological material. (Biochemical analysis showed that the relevant change was likely in the methylation of olfactory reception genes in the sperm of the parents and offspring. Methylation is one example of an epigenetic mechanism.) Natural selection is still the primary shaper of evolutionary change, but the inheritance of acquired traits might play an important role too.

End of out-take.  Source there is not documented, but I bet it is as below (AKA, for more details, see below):

 

https://www.nature.com/news/fearful-memories-haunt-mouse-descendants-1.14272  Fearful memories haunt mouse descendants” … “Genetic imprint from traumatic experiences carries through at least two generations.”

 

See also http://news.emory.edu/stories/2013/12/smell_epigenetics_ressler/campus.html and http://www.emoryhealthsciblog.com/tag/brian-dias/

 

So then my comments about that:  “Trofim D. Lysenko” (cursed be his name) was just off-base…  Don’t be stupid!  Don’t be cutting the tails off of mice, and be pretending that their offspring have shorter tails.  Be more subtle and ingenious in your experiments!

 

And so yet once more…  PLEASE see if you can run, or find someone to run, the above-described experiment, as here on this web page!  The idea may not be so crazy after all!!!

 

Call it epigenetics rather than semi-Lamarckism and THEN it might be worthy of experimental investigation!