I was going to write about graphene generating power today, but I got scooped by Adam Clark Estes, so I have ventured into Nature Neuroscience instead. And this is interesting: scientists have found that traumatic experiences in mice can be passed down to other generations through sperm RNA.
The researchers first exposed half their mice to the mouse equivalent of a traumatic event, the "mouse model of unpredictable maternal separation combined with unpredictable maternal stress". I'm not entirely clear, but I think that may be a nice euphemism for "ripped the young unexpectedly from their mothers".
Anyway, trauma having occurred, the mice along with their un-traumatized brethren were then subjected to a series of tests. They put them in special mazes designed to test their aversion to both open spaces and well-lit areas and the traumatized mice were less likely to run for cover. Which might make them better pets, but won't do them any good in the wild. They were also subjected to a forced swim test, which is, and I quote, "a test of behavioral despair" where they are evaluated on their willingness to swim for their lives. I am actually starting to feel legitimately bad for the mice at this point. Again, the traumatized mice performed poorer.
Then the researchers used the sperm from the traumatized mice to produce a second generation. They found that these offspring also performed the tests as though they had been traumatized. They then went further and looked at the glucose metabolism, which is often an indicator of early stress. Interestingly, the second generation mice had low levels of both insulin and blood glucose while the first generation did not. The second generation also had lower body weights, regardless of calorie intake.
Overall, the second generation mice performed worse in almost every situation, which the authors surmise is because they were messed up right from birth as opposed to during early childhood like their fathers.
Obviously, the implications of this sort of finding as applied to humans are really sad. Though, as the authors suggest, knowing the biomolecular source of inherited trauma is a first step towards identifying and alleviating it.
Check out the full report, Implication of sperm RNAs in transgenerational inheritance of the effects of early trauma in mice, here.