Applied Trophology, Vol. 10, No. 1
(January 1966)

RNA Basic Secret Revealed; Brain RNA Extract Transferred Memory; Dental Research Pinpoints Deficiencies

Contents in in this issue:

  • “RNA Basic Secret Revealed,”
  • “Brain RNA Extract May Have Transferred Memory,”
  • “Dental Research Pinpoints Vitamin Deficiencies.”

The following is a transcription of the January 1966 issue of Dr. Royal Lee’s Applied Trophology newsletter, originally published by Standard Process Laboratories.

RNA Basic Secret Revealed

American scientists have now worked out the structure of a nucleic acid. This breakthrough clears the way for similar determinations in other nucleic acids and a study of their role in heredity. Nucleic acids are nature’s key to life. This substance helps direct the development of form and function of all living things. In fact, generations succeed each other because the nucleic acids determine the genetic code of all organisms, give the instructions as to which body parts are to be built and then bring the necessary ingredients together to make the parts.

This scientific feat was accomplished by Dr. Robert W. Holley, professor of biochemistry at the College of Agriculture at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and a team of seven researchers who aided him in determining the exact construction of a nucleic acid.

Greater understanding of the nucleic acid complex may lead to new controls over disease and genetic defects, according to Dr. Holley in his original article in Science.

In a conference at Cornell Medical College, Dr. Holley advised that the accomplishment was the result of about nine years of work. The original project to isolate alanine transfer RNA from more than fifty others of the nucleic acid complex in baker’s yeast took over three years. Transfer RNAs are the smallest known biologically active nucleic acids. It was necessary to break up the molecule into fragments that could be pieced together in the order of a linear jigsaw puzzle. Alanine is an RNA transfer found in all body protein. The breakdown was done in four steps as there are four types of nucleic acid in each body cell, accounting for life. Deoxyribonucleic acid carries the genetic code and is so important that the cell protects it by using another nucleic acid (of different composition) to carry out the orders of the DNA. This job is done by the messenger RNA, which copies the message from the DNA code, then leaves to meet up with another nucleic acid called the ribosomal RNA. The ribosomal RNA serves as the gathering place for the messenger RNA and the other ingredients necessary to make proteins. Also waiting in the ribosomal RNA is the transfer RNA whose duty it is to read the message from the messenger RNA and then transfer this message to the amino acids.

There are some twenty amino acids and probably three different transfer RNAs that are specific for each, or approximately sixty transfer RNAs. In this breakthrough the scientists led by Dr. Holley used the transfer RNA specific for the amino acid alanine.

Essentially, it was a four-step process due to the four types of nucleic acid in each cell, accounting for life as elucidated above. The RNA molecule was digested into small fragments with an enzyme, the chain of RNA was selectively cleared into subunits called nucleotides. All four of the nucleic acids are made up of nucleotides. After six years of work, the scientists found that the alanine transfer RNA molecules consisted of seventy-seven nucleotides. The task of breaking down the seventy-seven-part chain into identifiable parts took three years.

Dr. Holley remarked that once we understand the complete nucleic acids system we can manipulate genetic materials for a whole series of useful purposes. These may range from altering the nature of plants and animals, vital to human nutrition, to new ways of controlling DNA-linked diseases and genetic effects. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, will however be much more difficult to break down, as the DNA molecule is larger and contains thousands of nucleotides. DNA ribonucleic acid is the genetic code of hereditary instructions that make every living organism the way it is.

In regard to this scientific achievement, Dr. William H. Allaway, director of USDA laboratory and professor of soil science at Cornell University, states, “The discovery by Dr. Holley and his associates may open the way to the development of new solutions to this critical nutritional problem. And it may provide a new basis for understanding many important living cells.”

Dr. Wendell Stanley, noted Nobel Prize winner (for his feat of crystalizing the tobacco mosaic virus), said, “I believe that the elucidation of nucleic acid is the most important scientific problem we face today. It is vastly more important than any of the problems associated with the structure of the atom, for in nucleic acid we are dealing with life itself.”

Brain RNA Extract May Have Transferred Memory

Los Angeles, CA – RNA is here to stay. It and its companion, DNA, have faithful adherents and a number of dissenters. However, sufficient controversy should be stirred up by a new research report of RNA’s action on memory to keep ribonucleic acid forever with us.

What may have happened, in studies conducted at the University of California, is transfer of memory of a specific response from trained to untrained rats.

Male rats were taught a conditioned response: a clicking noise meant the animal’s food cup was about to be filled with a food pellet.

If the animal hopefully checked his cup when no click had been sounded, he was given no pellet.

“By the end of training, each rat approached the food cup promptly and swiftly from any part of the box when the click was sounded, and rarely or never approached the cup in the absence of a click.”

When the training period ended, the eight experimental animals were killed and their brains removed. Residual RNA was extracted from the tissue and injected intraperitoneally into untrained animals.

RNA was also extracted from control rats and injected into another set of control rats.

All of the new RNA recipients had spent fifteen minutes a day for five days in the Skinner box in which experiments were conducted.

During each session two clicks were sounded, but they had nothing to do with food as these animals received none from a food cup during the adaptation process.

Then the animals were given code letters and experimentation proceeded on a blind basis: testers did not learn which rat had received RNA from unlearned and which RNA from conditioned donors.

The testing sessions consisted of placing animals in the box and starting the clicks.

“A response on a test trial consisted of the rat’s placing its nose inside a demarcated area, 63 cm2, surrounding the food cup, within five seconds of the click.

“The food cup was located in one corner of the box, the floor of which had an area of 670 cm2. That is, the rat had to approach to within a certain specified distance of the cup in order for a response to be counted,” according to the report.

Two judges were on hand to score the trials, and scoring was independent: both judges had to agree on a response to make it count, the investigators say.

Of 375 trials, judges’ tallies showed agreement on 370, or 98.7 percent.

The results showed that the “mean number of responses for the experimental rats was 6.86; the mean for the control rats was 1.00.”

Thus, say Drs. Frank R. Babich and associates, “The experiment animals showed a significantly greater tendency than controls to approach the cup area when the click was presented.”

Was it the transferred memory from RNA or some other factor that stimulated the experimental animals to respond to the click?

If it was the RNA, what sort of change took place in the molecule that allowed storage? And how did the injected RNA act to influence its recipient?

Dr. Babich and his colleagues, in their report (Science, Aug. 6) raise these questions but make no attempt to answer them.

Drug Trade News, Research and Technology, August 16, 1965

Dental Research Pinpoints Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin deficiency is not as rare in the United States as most public health officials would have us believe, two University of Alabama physicians say in a recent issue of the Journal of Dental Medicine. Drs. E. Cheraskin and W.M. Ringsdorf Jr. present evidence that there have been significant reductions in the nutrients available for human consumption. Because of this, “The American public may be suffering with some of the minimal gradations of nutritional deficiency states,” the doctors point out.

Citing their work at the university’s Department of Oral Medicine, the scientists report that many deficiencies are showing up in apparently healthy individuals. Although these people have no overt illness or disability, the physicians classify them as having suboptimal health or subclinical illness. “There is reason to believe that a large fraction of the population falls in this category,” they add.

For example, well over 31 percent of 861 dental patients—presumably otherwise healthy—examined in the department of oral medicine were found to have unsatisfactory plasma vitamin C levels. The situation is similar for vitamin A and the multiple vitamin deficiencies, the doctors say. They cite numerous studies showing that multivitamin supplementation improved the performance of “healthy” subjects. “It seems safe to conclude that significant correlations may indeed exist between the need for vitamin supplementation and the early or incipient stages of disease,” Drs. Cheraskin and Ringsdorf said.

The researchers drive home the point that more effort should be directed at detecting vitamin shortages. Because vitamin deficiencies do not result in visible illness they have received only secondary emphasis in medical practice, they said. “More important, there is suggestive information that vitamins are necessary to the prevention of disease,” the doctors add.

A survey just being started by the U.S. Department of Agriculture could go a long way to initiate the type of research the Alabama researchers are recommending. USDA will undertake the first national survey of American eating habits in the last ten years. According to Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman, the study will “provide an appraisal of the nutrient adequacy of diets in the U.S. and be the basis for consumer educational programs.”

Health Bulletin, January 16, 1965, Vol. 3, No. 3

Heather Wilkinson

Heather Wilkinson is Senior Editor at Selene River Press.

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