Nasa finds new life form on Earth

2010-12-02 19:43

Washington - A new bacteria that can grow and incorporate arsenic into its DNA has been found in California, scientists said on Thursday, in a discovery that could expand the search for life on Earth and beyond.

"What is new here is arsenic is being used as a building block for the organism," explained Ariel Anbar, co-author of the study which appears in the journal Science.

"We have had this idea that life requires these six elements with no exceptions and here it turns out, well maybe there is an exception," he said.

The discovery was made by Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a Nasa astrobiology research fellow and former post-doctoral scientist in Anbar's research group at Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration.

The bacteria was found in sediment scooped from Mono Lake, known for its high levels of salt and arsenic, in eastern California.

  • thambomz - 2010-12-02 19:49

    I love science, it's always moving forward.

  • Saambou - 2010-12-02 20:17

    I love how Nasa makes a big deal about the press conf, only to tell us about something that was posted on "co-author of the study which appears in the journal Science." I am sure I read about this ages ago. Nasa obviously has just decided that they agree.

      william.botha - 2010-12-02 21:26

      Yes, what a downer.

      Donovan Porter - 2010-12-02 21:39

      Read the article properly - this was a NASA study which was just published in Science. They're not reporting second-hand research. That this bacterium can tolerate arsenic has been known for a few years. What is new and is a big deal is the fact that arsenate, far from being toxic, can replace phosphate in the DNA and energy molecules of a living cell

      william.botha - 2010-12-02 23:21

      @Donavan-So what is the cycle called, since the ATP don't work I suppose we can call it the Andosine Tri-Arsenate cycle.

  • haha - 2010-12-03 04:59

    Aren't they supposed to look for life forms on the moon or some other planet? Maybe the moon landing was a big farce.

  • juanne.coetzee - 2010-12-03 07:19

    I was fired up for the live conference only to discover that it wasted a good hour of my life. Felt like a science class. WHERE'S ET?

      pop101 - 2010-12-03 09:01

      Lol - yes Juanne, I was waiting for : "Ladies and Gentlemen, we are not alone, we have made contact with........"

  • PrefabSprout - 2010-12-03 07:29

    What?? The way NASA were carrying on about this big announcement one would have thought that they had discovered the Simpsons living on planet Og.

  • JC - 2010-12-03 08:45

    Hmm... yeah I don't know why Nasa made a big deal.. did they learn about this on Discovery Channel like the rest of us?

  • Ben - 2010-12-03 08:55

    It's still a pretty big deal. Alot can be learned from this.

  • Ben - 2010-12-03 08:56

    It's still a pretty big deal. A lot can be learned from this.

  • milestonemoss - 2010-12-03 09:04

    Aren't they suppose to be looking for life in outer space ???

  • errol.d.cason - 2010-12-03 10:16

    If you think this is not a big deal you are obviously not a scientist. This turns our conception of what life is and how and where it can occur totally on its head. This might just be one of the most significant scientific discoveries in a while. The only thing that one must note though is that the organism wasn't found with As in its DNA in the wild, but under lab conditions was found to be able to incorporate it. Still, pretty insane if you think about it.

  • DrP - 2010-12-03 12:42

    @Saambou: This is old news. It has even made it to a DSTV documentary. Thus, it must be at least 5 years old....

  • DrP - 2010-12-03 12:45

    @William Botha: It's DNA, not cell metabolism. The phosphate refers to the phosphates in A,G,T &C. It still probably uses ATP.

  • tltshuma - 2010-12-03 15:59

    All those sci fi movies ur coming to life.

  • Ron - 2010-12-03 17:20

    Can't say this any other way. The ignorance of the majority of those who comment on science discoveries/articles is staggering. The NASA discovery shows that arsenic can replace phosphorous, which is one of the six building blocks noted in the article. This greatly expands the possible environments in which life can occur. Ron Ron

  • Ron - 2010-12-03 17:38

    Can't say this any other way. The ignorance of those who comment on science discoveries/articles is staggering. The NASA work shows that phosphorous, which is one of the six building blocks mentioned in the publication, can be replaced by arsenic. This greatly expands the environments in which life may occur.

  • CTScientist - 2010-12-03 18:13

    Well said, Ron.

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