Not long ago in Professor Gewirtz's final lecture, Psychology 1001 students learned about Doogie the "smart mouse." Intrigued, I decided to find out more. In an article published by Princeton University (http://www.princeton.edu/pr/news/99/q3/0902-smart.htm) I found plenty of interesting information.
Doogie was "created" (let the Frankenstein flashbacks ensue) by neurobiologist Joe Tsien. By adding a single gene called NR2B, he was able to increase the animal's ability to solve, reason, and learn from his environment. During lecture, we saw how Doogie had a significantly faster learning curve than his unmodified peers did. Beyond this original extraordinary learning, modified mice retained certain features of juvenile mice into adulthood that allow them to remain better learners.
This is an extremely important finding for humanity as well as scientists. With such a simple modification, memory and learning problems could be wiped from the face of the Earth. My grandma and aunt have been diagnosed with memory loss problems and past research has shown that the difficulties they face are genetic. Someday I could be the one forgetting where I put things or not remembering my friends' names. This procedure has not been used on humans yet, but with Doogie's help it is only a matter of time before it could be. Looking to avoid gene modification, pharmaceutical companies could look into making drugs to enhance current NR2B effects in our bodies.
While these findings seem promising, there are questions left. Tsien's modified mice experienced chronic pain and had shorter life spans as a side effect of accelerated learning and retention abilities. Would these problems carry into a human application and if so how severe would they be? It is also unknown how effective NR2B treatment would be on humans and if there are other side effects that remain undetected in the mice. With such uncertainties, the NR2B discovery has much left to be discovered but offers hope to the millions who suffer from previously incurable diseases.