NASA discovers new life form, GFAJ-1 bacteria built with toxic Arsenic

By on Dec 3, 2010 in Astronomy, Science, United States, World Comments

NASA has discovered a new life form on earth, called GFAJ-1 which is a member of bacteria group Gammaproteobacteria, as published on their official website on Thursday.

According to the report, this GFAJ-1 microorganism was discovered in Mono Lake, California, and was said to be capable reproduce using the toxic chemical Arsenic.

This recent discovery by NASA scientists which was funded by its Astrobiology research apparently revealed that the microorganism replaces arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.

According to NASA, Mono Lake was chosen due to its unusual chemistry, especially its high salinity, high alkalinity, and high levels of arsenic.

“The idea of alternative biochemistries for life is common in science fiction,” Carl Pilcher said, who is the director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

“Until now a life form using arsenic as a building block was only theoretical, but now we know such life exists in Mono Lake.” Pilcher added.

The research was supported by NASA’s Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology (Exo/Evo) Program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute, while the research team was led by Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a geomicrobiologist.

“We know that some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we’ve found is a microbe doing something new — building parts of itself out of arsenic,” Felisa Wolfe-Simon said.

“If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else life can do that we haven’t seen yet?” she added.

More information about this GFAJ-1 discovery can be read at Astrobiology Magazine.



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