Health And Medicine

Fear Can Be Turned On Or Off Through DNA Modification

Based on epigenetic system, neuroscientists at the University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) have found a possible way to silence the gene that causes us to feel fear.

In a multicellular organism, the cells have the same set of genetic instructions because of their identical DNA sequence but have different terminal phenotypes, this activity or expression in which the gene influences can be changed through modification of DNA, protein, or RNA to execute a particular function without changing their primary sequences. This study of gene expression regulation is known as epigenetics; it is heritable, self-perpetuating, and reversible.

Based on this system, neuroscientists at the University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) have found a possible way to silence the gene that causes us to feel fear.

For the research, they make a special consideration of the protein, ten-eleven translocation 3 (Tet3) and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC), a DNA pyrimidine nitrogen base, which regulates gene expression and stimulates DNA  demethylation. The reason they choose Tet3 is that it can alter chemically modified base (in this case, 5-hmC) into another. The accumulation of 5-hmC with Tet3 makes the genes to be expressed easily, it elevates rapid behavioral adaptation. They find that 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC) is highly dynamic in response to fear extinction training.

The experiment was carried out on individual mouse using 5-hmc with High-throughput screening (HTS) of DNA sequencing, it was shown that fear extinction leads to a dramatic genome-wide redistribution of 5-hmC within the infralimbic prefrontal cortex.

According to the paper, extinction learning-induced Tet3-mediated accumulation of 5-hmC is associated with the establishment of epigenetic states that promote gene expression and rapid behavioral adaptation.

Dr. Bredy, who is a senior researcher at QBI, says  “Genes function is not static but dynamic which can be altered by our daily life experiences and emotionally relevant events have a pronounced effect. By understanding the fundamental relationship between the way in which DNA functions without a change in the underlying sequence, future targets for therapeutic intervention in fear-related anxiety disorders could be developed.

This is the first study of its kind that contemplates how fear is controlled by gene and can be turned on or off through modification of DNA. The study also highlights the adaptive significance of changes brought into chromatin landscape in the adult brain.


  1. If it means removing fear of being burnt and fear of heights etc. then I don’t think it is a smart move. If the intensity of the fear could be reduced genetically then this I may be in favor of because too many humans are very afraid of many things and paranoia or phobia is a perfect example of fear running wild for no good reason.

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  3. anytime you make a singular change (point mutation) in a sequence, you are really opening up a can of worms.

    How do they think they know everything about 5-hmC?

    this change could also lead to unexpected changes, and then what? it is nice to try to find cures, but man dealt with anxiety since creation.

    usually the source of anxiety is other people, not their own genes.

    so you are changing a response to a problem, without eliminating the source of the problem.

  4. I bet the Generals are very, very interested in this.

    German media reported that the Russians researched into this in the 90s. I don’t remember what exactly they did, all I remember is that the subjects, members of special police forces, became “psychologically unstable” (emotionless, alienated, etc).

  5. Fear can be best dealt with counselling, I’m not saying the discovery isn’t important or anything.One must first accept the negative/backfire of a said removal of one of the most human basic emotions.Can you imagine if you would remove ALL FEARS of a person?I see the benefits, but I also see the negative scenarios.For example imagine a group of people without fear of death, without the fear of law or what the repercussions of a said action are -what if they realise that without fear they can do whatever they want/when they want/with who they want…wouldn’t that lead to chaos?

  6. Totally against this kind of gene manipulation. Talk about fooling foolishly with Nature ! Removing fear would remove a whole SHITLOAD of our self-protective mechanisms …

    1. Yes, totally agree, these mechanisms evolved as ways of protection but I think scientists will be taking such stuffs into account, let’s see what they come up with?

    2. Interesting. Not sure that removing Fear altogether would be ideal, it is a primal source of self preservation.

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