Transgenerational small RNA inheritance

Transgenerational small RNA inheritance

It is currently unknown whether, how, and to what extent epigenetic information can transmit across generations. Our mission is to discover weird mechanisms of heredity. Indeed, recent discoveries are making the once heretic idea of inheritance of acquired traits relevant again (not the naïve ideas that Lamarck imagined, obviously!). Parental experiences, at least in worms, can affect the progeny’s physiology, sometimes permanently, or at least for multiple generations.

<-this artwork was conducted by Leah Houri-Zeevi.

The neuronal basis for decision-making - what leads to irrationality?

The neuronal basis for decision-making - what leads to irrationality?

We are studying rational choice… IN WORMS! Rationality for economists means making optimal decisions. One of the basic axioms of economic rationality is “Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives” (IIA), according to which a preference ratio between two options should be unaffected by introducing additional alternatives to the choice set. To investigate the biological mechanism for (in) consistent behavior we designed simple decision-making tasks that test IIA violations in C. elegans (See our pre-print: “Bounded rationality in C.elegans”).

<-This artwork was conducted by Viktor Koen https://www.viktorkoen.com/.

How neurons generate heritable memories?

How neurons generate heritable memories?

The search for “molecular memories” - We are interested in how information is represented in the nervous system, and how “the code” is implemented to produce behavior. In the broadest sense of the word, memory is what enables altering of future responses based on history. Many types of molecular mechanisms can retain memories in biological systems, for example, metabolic changes, epigenetic factors, stable bioelectrical circuit modes, or neuronal-circuits.

New work from our lab reveals that neuronal processes can generate heritable responses, regulating specific genes in the next generations and affecting the progeny’s behavior (in press).

<-This artwork was conducted by Beata Edyta Mierzwa, https://www.beatascienceart.com/.

Evolution &amp; epigenetics

Evolution & epigenetics

Evolution depends on variability and selection (and drift). According to the classic interpretation of the “Modern synthesis” between Mendel, Darwin and the principles of population genetics, the environment enforces selection, but doesn’t affect variability. However, numerous epigenetic mechanisms that enable the environment to affect heritable variations are now known. We are studying whether and how epigenetic information can establish transient and stable variations, and as a consequence alter the rates of evolutionary processes. Moreover, since epigenetic effects can in theory allow adaptive changes in progeny, in response to parental reactions to environmental challenges, epigenetic inheritance has the potential ability to direct evolution’s path. To study these questions we are performing lab evolution experiments in a number of different model organisms, and record evolutionary processes as they take place.

<-This artwork was conducted by Tamar Moshinsky https://tamarmosh.com/.

Engineering Brain Parasites for Delivery of Therapeutic Proteins

Engineering Brain Parasites for Delivery of Therapeutic Proteins

Delivery of therapeutics across the blood brain barrier, and into neurons, is a major challenge that hinders the translation of new discoveries into therapy for neurological disorders. To tackle this we developed a novel synthetic biology solution to this problem: We engineered Toxoplasma gondii which evolved to migrate into the CNS and secrete proteins into cells, to deliver therapeutics proteins into neurons. In immuno-competent individuals, chronic Toxoplasma infections are highly common and harmless. In fact, it is estimated that a third of the world population is chronically infected with the parasite.

<-This artwork was conducted by Dror Cohen.