October 20, 2010
Gene Therapy Lifts Depression In Mice

Gene therapy to deliver the gene for a protein p11 in to mouse brains lifted their depressive state. The thinking is this technique could be replicated with humans. Want to reprogram your brain genes to make you happier? You okay with permanently altering your pesonality using gene therapy.

NEW YORK (Oct. 20, 2010) -- In a report published in the Oct. 20 issue of Science Translational Medicine, researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center say animal and human data suggest gene therapy to the brain may be able to treat patients with major depression who do not respond to traditional drug treatment.

The researchers hope to rapidly translate their findings into a human clinical trial using the same kind of gene therapy modality the investigators have pioneered to treat Parkinson's disease. A 45-patient randomized blinded phase II multicenter clinical trial using the gene therapy to treat Parkinson's has recently ended and results are being readied for publication.

"Given our findings, we potentially have a novel therapy to target what we now believe is one root cause of human depression," says the study's senior investigator, Dr. Michael Kaplitt, associate professor and vice chairman for research of neurological surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and a neurosurgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Suppose this will really work in humans. Okay, so a gene therapy could permanently alter your mental state. Is this the last gene therapy discovered that alters personality or brain performance? Most certainly not. We will witness the development of more ways to alter the brain's performance via gene therapies and other long-lasting methods of altering the brain.

This has suspense thriller science fiction potential. Use gene therapy tourn a guy into an amoral killer before sending him on a killing mission. Then when he comes back and his handlers reprogram him again to lack killer ambitions.

Imagine rich or powerful people getting gene therapy without their even knowing it in order to make them do the bidding of a rival group (e.g. a mugging could include an injection of a gene therapy or a the gene therapy could be delivered by a lover). Their personality would be altered and they'd start making decisions in ways that play to the Machiavellian plans of the group that surreptitiously delivered gene therapy into their brains.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 October 20 11:32 PM  Brain Depression

Tom Billings said at October 22, 2010 11:21 PM:

Randall,...Fears about this were anticipated by Kurzweill and others, and their answer has been nanotechnology. It can monitor your genome to make sure it is what you want it to be. Of course, then you have to control the nanotech.

Even there, however, the combination of different traits may produce unexpected results. I am reading Temple Grandin's "Animals in Translation". Her descriptions of the unexpected emotional changes animal breeders are exerting over the animals they breed are both fascinating, and a warning. Changing a gene to get one trait can give you several other results, because a protein does more than one thing in one part of the brain. There is *no* guarantee you will like the other results you get,...and with an agent in the field, the ability for "do-overs" is,...minimal.

Besides, turning someone into an amoral person does nothing to guarantee he will be more willing to kill the person you want. If the sociopath you have created doesn't feel that *their*own* reasons for killing someone, or not, coincide with what you want, he might actually *aid* the person you want dead, if he doesn't see the people who have changed him as more useful to him than the target.

Letting such a person loose, and expecting him to tamely return, is another area of uncertainty on the order of magnitude of setting a hardy breed of smallpox loose, and not expecting it to sweep through your own population as well as your enemy's. In many ways, a human is just as much a biological agent as a smallpox virus. Lastly, the amorality of someone does little to affect how good they are at killing, compared to training, and support, and motivation. Sociopathy does *not* provide the last, any more than it provides accurate targeting.

Randall Parker said at October 23, 2010 9:48 AM:


The costs of genome monitoring would be overhead in every cell. It is like anti-virus software that puts a heavy burden on CPU and hard drives, slowing down PCs. Also, the anti-virus software has to keep getting updated against new clever threats and still does not always stop them. The machinery will take up space and use fuel and generate heat.

Also, it is far easier to develop gene therapy that'll alter personalities than it is to develop defensive nanotech.

Plus, there's an obvious way to defeat the nanotech: introduce cells that are programmed completely differently with their own nanotech that defends them and then also add in additional nanotech that attacks the body's nanotech defenses.

Sociopath control: First of all, many different kinds of personality changes can be introduced for the advantage of some group. Imagine, for example, you could alter the personality of the leader of a country to make him more relaxed, happy, and very conciliatory. Or make him more meek and compliant. Do that right before a crisis between that country and another. The other country could get a better deal.

Second, timing matters a great deal. If one can change a personality right before they are going to be near someone they already strongly dislike then the change has a much greater chance of causing a change that causes them to behave differently toward that person.

As for expecting the person to return: Just add a reservoir in their body that, after some time period, releases gene therapy that alters their personality again.

Levi said at January 26, 2016 10:25 PM:

There are antidotes and proactive things you can do to protect yourself from this, unless you just hate yourself so much you don't give a rat and hey, why not. Can we do this on Hillary Clinton? Maybe she'll remember what her emails said? Or how about Justin Bieber? We could help him become a real man. Better yet, how about we inject nanotechnology into Kim Kardashian so she'll lose all desire to stop taking selfies?

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