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Scientists prove drugs can alter personality permanently

One thing very true about ants, and carpenter ants in particular, is that they live in a very regimented and caste system. Different ants have different duties depending on their nature and they are soldiers, guards, scouts, queens and more. Ants are born that way and they stay that way — at least until scientists do experiments on them and change that.

According to reports from the magazine Science, the University of Pennsylvania conducted an experiment where researchers tried to change the personalities and jobs of carpenter ants and have now proven that drugs will not only do that, but do it permanently.

The study was written by Shelley Berger, PhD, from the University of Pennsylvania along with help from colleagues at Arizona State University and New York University, it was discovered that by using injectible drugs to alter the DNA of carpenter ants, they could make the scout ants that normally forage for food disinterested in doing so. The experiment involved altering the balance of epigenetic chemicals known as acetyl groupsm which are attached to histone protein complexes around which the DNA strands wrap around cell nucleus.

By using these drugs and altering those acetyl groups the scientists could, in effect, reprogram the ant’s DNA and alter foraging behaviors. This discovery leads to potentially larger animals and how their behavior can potentially be altered by manipulating the epigenetic materials in their DNA.

Ants were chosen for this experiment because their castes are so ingrained within them. Scout ants, soldiers and those who attend the queen are born into certain jobs and they do them without hesitation or stopping until they die. In order to determine if epigenetic alteration could change behavior, such a strict caste system would show a clear sign if it had worked.

Epigenetic enzymes have also been studied in larger and slightly more advanced animals such as mice and mutations in them have been known to cause certain genetic diseases in humans, such as Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome. Thus, this experiment could be a first step in determining how to treat such diseases by altering epigenetic enzymes to change DNA within humans.

Epigenetic enzymes are also believed to be very important to learning and memory in humans and animals.

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