This Article is from (http://primewriter.com/news-1246-headlines/?p=11747)
– Giving full credit to the Author Chris Jenkins.
Mary Voytek, Director of the Astrobiology Program for NASA and Felisa Wolfe-Simon held a live press conference to discuss the incredible discovery of ‘weird life’ or ‘alien life’ that was recently made by Felisa Wolfe-Simon.
Felisa Wolfe-Simon said, “All life that we know requires carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur and it uses those six elements and some of the critical pieces I think we’re familiar with including DNA, RNA or the information technology, the protein which are the molecular machines and lipids, which separate you from everything else.”
She continued, “So by discovering, we discovered in our organism that can substitute one element for another in these bio-molecules. So I want to put that in the context of the who, what, where and how we did this and give us a little bit in an astrobiological context or life in a planetary context what this could mean to us on the practical and also a bit more esoteric levels.
I would like to introduce to you today the bacterium gfa-j1. These are not little pots to. They are microbes that scientists call bugs but they are not bugs. This is a bacterium that looks ordinary, this is a type of a micrograph that many of have seen but it’s doing something extraordinary.”
We’ll talk about that. But first, let’s find out where this microbe is from. You were looking at a map of Mono Lake, California. It’s in northern California and east of the Sierra, just outside of the Yosemite National Park. It’s a very interesting environment. We’ll take a look at that. Please roll that footage. Mono lake has three times the salt of sea water, a pitch of 10 is basic like bleach and it’s got very high levels of arsenic and teaming with life.
The seemingly inhospitable environment teams with life like bacteria and algae and is a major stopping point for migratory to birds on their way through the United States. We went to look for an interesting microbe and we went to an unusual place.
So let me tell you a little bit how we did this. If you want to look for an organism that can substitute one element for another you want to think where that is abundant. It’s abundant in mono lake. We think about the periodic table. Arsenic life just below phosphorous on the periodic table they have the physical size that’s very similar. Physical size of the atom.
Actually, the fact that this chemical similarity and other things that I would be happy they discuss at length with folks, but that chemical similarity lends insight into something that arsenic is toxic because it looks like phosphorus. So your cells and my cells and microbial cells, they can’t tell the difference. That’s very interesting to me as a biochemist.
So I went to look for this particular microbe. We took the mud from mono lake that we just we’re introduced to and wanted to see if anything would grow if we took that mud and gave it an laboratory environment that was rich in everything it need, sugar, vitamins, not that bad for us, and we added no phosphorous. This is not an experiment that most people might run, but it was driven by my question.
Is there a microbe on earth that could substitute arsenic for phosphorus and its basic bio-molecular constituents and so what did we find? We found that not only this microbe cope or ordeal with the toxicity of arsenic, but it grew and thrived. That was amazing. Nothing should have gone. Put your plant in the dark. It doesn’t grow. So something grew. Now we wanted to find what was happening. So we measured the insides of the cell, we took the cells and measured the total arsenic concentration. Then we found that the arsenic was associated specifically with a band of genomic DNA.
So it was associated. It was inside the cell. It’s like sitting at a dinner table with you and your neighbors and we might see how you’re around. Well, what should be in the place phosphorous? It looked like it was arsenic. We measured it as arsenic.
Let’s look at an artist rendition of what’s going on in that cell. Here we’re seeing the beautiful elegant structure of the double helix of the DNA and what I want to highlight is the phosphate. That’s the backbone we say and that’s the light orange ball and it stitches together as we see the edges of the DNA. It holds together the DNA, the backbone.
What we think is happening, all the evidence we collected suggests is that instead of these we’ll see these orange light orange balls disappear and represented by green balls we see that arsenic would be substituting for phosphorus and the backbone of the DNA. You can see how critical this component of the DNA might be.
So, what I’ve presented to you today is a microbe doing something different than life as we knew about it. I was taught all life we know on earth, all life we know of is here so far and if there’s an organism on earth doing something different we’ve cracked open the door to what’s possible for life elsewhere in the universe and that’s profound. And to understand how life is formed and where life is going.”
The discovery of bacteria thriving in arsenic and not in phosphorous is so monumental it will possibly rewrite science text books. It shows that with all of our technology, learning, understanding and wisdom there are many areas where centuries from now, we could be described as living in a certain ‘dark ages’ if you will. Life as we know it, is no longer the rule and the discovery not only shows how much about our universe and planet there is to discover, but the importance of having funding to make these discoveries possible.
Mary Voytek stated, “This research was funded by the Astrobiology program, which is the research and analysis program in NASA that focuses on the origin and evolution of life, the distribution of life and future of life on earth to inform us as to how we might search for life and evidence of life in other places in our solar system.
NASA has had a long history of funding origin of life research. In fact, we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary this year. The research that’s going to be presented here today shows the goals of our program and our interest in the origin of life and life in the universe.”
The importance of NASA funding couldn’t be more evidenced than by today’s incredible announcement. Let’s hope that should aliens come to Earth or attempt to make human contact NASA will have the funding in place as well as the tools and equipment needed to find them.