[FOUNTAIN]Japanese memories may need assistanceNeuroscientist Eric R. Kandel, the 2000 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, was born in Vienna, Austria. As a young boy, he was greatly shocked by the holocaust in his homeland, which had been annexed by Nazi Germany. Unlike Germany, which apologized for its crimes against Jews, Austria has ignored its involvement as if it had completely forgotten the holocaust.
Dr. Kandel, who had moved to the United States In 1939 to escape from Nazi Germany, studied human memory. He identified CREB, a protein involved in memory storage, in sea slugs.
CREB is a molecule in the nucleus of a brain cell. It activates the DNA required to produce proteins that link memory cells forever, almost like an adhesive tape for cells. When CREB is switched on, memories last. That’s why you can vividly recall your mother’s voice or your first kiss for a long time. In contrast, when CREB is switched off, memories fade quickly. The discovery of CREB made it possible for humans to attempt to have “everlasting memory,” which has been dreamed of since the days of Plato.
Dr. Kandel created genius sea slugs by stimulating their brains and enhancing their CREB. His sea slugs could distinguish different patterns of sea shells and colors of coral and remember the food that had been put in a corner of their living areas. A rival of Dr. Kandel’s engineered genius fruit flies, which were 10 times more intelligent than regular fruit flies.
Having gained confidence from his sea slug experiments, Dr. Kandel has since 1997 been developing a memory enhancing enzyme named phosphodiesterase-4.
His research is currently at the stage of animal testing, and if successful, could completely cure Alzheimer’s disease and chronic forgetfulness. When the enzyme was given to a mouse whose age was equivalent to 80 human years, it ran around a maze as quickly and accurately as a young mouse. Dr. Kandel has said he would like to retrieve the past of his homeland with his medicine. He might be imagining that Austrians will be forced to recall the terrible nights of the holocaust when their brains are given the CREB enhancer.
Recently, Japanese Internet users raided the homepage of the Voluntary Agency Network of Korea (VANK), which has been working hard for the promotion of Korea. They were protesting against VANK’s efforts that had corrected the Sea of Japan to the East Sea on Google Earth, a three dimensional map of the world. From the history textbooks to Dokdo Island, the Japanese rightists are repeating absurd claims over and over again. If they are oblivious of their history and past memories, Dr. Kandel’s medicine is the right treatment for them.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.