Wang, D., Z. Cui, Q. Zeng, H. Kuing, et. al. 2009. "Genetic Enhancement of Memory and Long-Term Potentiation but Not CA1 Long-Term Depression in NR2B Transgenic Rats PLoS ONE. 4(10). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007486
On November 12, 2009 an article was published in National Geographic by Matt Kaplan entitled “Rat Made Supersmart – Similar Boost Unsafe in Humans.” This article discusses exactly what the title would have you believe. The Medical College of Georgia injected an rat embryo with genetic material that caused an over expression of the gene that controls the rate at which brain cells communicate with one another – NR2B. This led the rat, named Hobbie-J, to be able to remember objects three times longer than other typical lab rats.
1) The claims made in the news article include the following: an injection of certain genetic material led to the over expression of NR2B, this over expression causes an increase in the ability to learn and to retain memory, it may be possible to cause this occurrence in humans, and that it may be dangerous to do in humans.
2) The media article does introduce the conclusions that were made in the technical paper. The main conclusion made in the technical paper is “genetic up-regulation of NR2B expression in the adult cortex and hippocampus is an effective means for rejuvenating synaptic plasticity and improving learning and memory.” The news article discusses this conclusion; however, it uses less technical terms. The article merely states that the over expression leads to a better ability learn and retain memory.
3) The technical paper shows slightly less certainty than does the news article. The technical paper states that as they went through the process they had to change their thinking several times. They also explain that other test should still be done to test the side effects. The news article makes it seems as though this treatment is flawless and should be ready to go in the near future.
4) The news article does try to use broader implications within the article. While the technical paper does mention that the process of over expression might be able to be used as a treatment for brain injury that results in memory issues it does not go the extent that the news article does. The news article makes it seem as though the treatment would make people super smart and have memories that were extraordinary.
5) The technical paper discusses experiments that support their hypothesis as well as contradict it. The news article does discuss an experiment that is similar to the one that the technical paper discusses. In this experiment a mouse named Doogie was given a treatment that resulted in better memory. However, the news article does not discuss how this experiment was conducted. The news article also does not provide any contradictory work.
6) The news article does not do a “debate between equal sides” on the science aspect of the science experiment. However, they debate the ethics and the possible implications of things that have not even happened yet. It discusses how this treatment may make people extra smart and how that would be good. On the other hand the increase in memory may be bad in the sense that people should be able to forget things. However, this debate really has no room in this article because the treatment is not even available for human use yet and thus has no be