I recently had a discussion with a statistician in my school about memory. Among other things, he told me that it has been experimentally demonstrated that when one extracts DNA from any organism and then induces a stressful condition on that organism, the same effects on DNA can be observed both in that organism and the DNA sample that was extracted before the stressful condition. From what I could tell it is as if he was suggesting that DNA has some kind of a telepathic property that enables this phenomenon.

Now, I am not a biologist (and neither was he) but I am heavily suspicious of this idea. Also, when I asked him for a specific paper on that, he simply told me that there are many and that it is fairly easy to find them. However, my efforts to find anything on google scholar were fruitless so far.

So I want to know: Is such a thing possible and have there been any experimental studies on that?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Highly unlikely and I dare to say impossible. Maybe he meant that it can be detected after DNA isolation. One way or another, without a proper reference to back it up and given the statistician's background I would quickly forget about it. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Nov 5, 2014 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ When you say "after DNA isolation" do you mean making the isolation after the stressful condition? Because that was what I asked him and he insisted on the isolation being made before the stressful condition. $\endgroup$ Nov 5, 2014 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ I would push the person for 1)what modifications of the DNA are being done, 2) what stress. The problem I think we're going to run into is that no one recently would have had funding to study this due to the absurdity. I know when we take DNA out of NEB 10 beta's it's not true. $\endgroup$
    – Atl LED
    Nov 5, 2014 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ yes correct. That is what I mean. DNA has no telepathic properties - if telepathy exists it is associated with living organisms and not with lifeless material such as DNA. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Nov 5, 2014 at 0:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Is it possible that your source simply misunderstood what they read? There has been some work on inheritance of epigenetic changes to DNA due to stress. But there is no mysterious telepathy involved, just the transmission of chemically modified DNA from parent to child. It's still a highly speculative subject at this point. $\endgroup$ Sep 28, 2017 at 2:59

1 Answer 1


No — typical DNA extraction will not preserve information about the biochemical state of the cell.

During the process of DNA extraction, proteins are removed and DNA from a population of cells gets precipitated. Then you dissolve the DNA. In this process native conformational state cannot be preserved.

However there are techniques (see this post) that can capture long distance molecular interactions of DNA (which reflects a conformational state). To summarize in a line, these techniques "lock" the DNA in its conformation and downstream steps are carefully done so as prevent loss of information.

Stress is just a kind of biochemical response. This technique can be applied to study long range DNA-DNA interactions for different conditions (for e.g. Developmental stages).

Stress can cause RNA in the cell to aggregate; however once you do the extraction you won't be able to know if it was aggregated in the cell before extraction.

An Analogy: Sugar can be anhydrous powder or can be crystalline. But once you dissolve the sugar in water, there is no way to know in what form it existed before dissolution.

Certain processes (epigentic mechanisms) can lead to methylation (sometimes hydroxymethylation) of DNA (at cytosine; Bacteria also have adenine methylation). These modifications can be detected in the extracted DNA by different methods; one of the common techniques employed for this is bisulphite-sequencing.

Final word: all these claims about molecules having telepathic memory is pseudoscience. There is no evidence whatsoever for such proposed phenomena.

  • $\begingroup$ Edited. Clear now? I didn't explain too much about the technique because that is a different question. $\endgroup$
    Nov 5, 2014 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ Looks good to me. $\endgroup$
    – user137
    Nov 5, 2014 at 15:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .