Smarter Rats Via Transgenic Over-Expression Of NR2B Gene
Hobbie-J is a transgenically-enhanced rat able to remember novel objects for three times longer than the average Long Evans female rat (the smartest rat strain).
Researchers from the Medical College of Georgia and East China Normal University developed Hobbie-J 's superior brainpower by transgenic over-expression of the NR2B gene, which in turn increased communication between NMDA receptor sites maybe a hundred milliseconds longer than normal, just enough to enhance learning and memory. NMDA receptors (and their NR2B subunits) are the controlling molecular structures for synaptic plasticity and memory.
Gene expression is translation of information encoded in a gene into protein or RNA. When done to a very high level, it is known as over-expression. The researchers wanted to determine whether the NR2B gene is “a universal genetic factor that acts as a rate-limiting molecule” across species. Here’s a short video showing the process of gene expression:
(Video on gene expression)
Science fiction fans have been pursuing the cheese of enhanced intelligence through the maze of research for decades. We all have our favorites; perhaps you're thinking of Flowers for Algernon, the 1958 short story by Daniel Keyes. In the story, Algernon is a laboratory mouse who has undergone surgery to increase his intelligence; the story is narrated by Charlie, the first person to undergo the procedure.