New Building Block For Alien Life Discovered

Update Mar-02-2015: It turns out that the paper on which this article was based has been disproved.

"Contrary to an original report, the new research clearly shows that the bacterium, GFAJ-1, cannot substitute arsenic for phosphorus to survive," said a statement by the US journal Science, a prestigious, peer-reviewed magazine. Science published Sunday the much-hyped initial study in December 2010, with lead researcher Felisa Wolfe-Simon, then a fellow in NASA's astrobiology program, announcing that a new form of life had been scooped from a California lake.
(Via PhysOrg)

Thanks to @RocketAcademy for pointing this out and supplying references. End update.

The essential building blocks of life are well known; carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur. The absence of any one of these elements would preclude the existence of life as we know it occurring elsewhere in the universe.

Until now.

Research conducted by Felisa Wolfe-Simon, Gwyneth Gordon, Ariel Anbar and Paul Davies appears to demonstrate that an earthly bacterium can take arsenic and substitute it for phosphorus in its DNA and other biomolecules when forced to do so.


(Arsenic-based bacteria)

The research centers around a bacterium; strain GFAJ-1 of the Halomonadaceae family of Gammaproteobacteria, which was taken from the sediments of Mono Lake, which has naturally high levels of arsenic. By culturing the bacterium in the lab without phosphorus, and a suitable concentration of arsenic, the bacterium was observed to grow in spite of the lack of one of the "necessary" building blocks - phosphorus. Subsequent analysis proved that the organism substituted arsenic both in DNA and other needed biomolecules.

I recall speculation about life-forms based on something other than the usual elements from my childhood. In the 1967 Star Trek episode The Devil in the Dark, something is wreaking havoc at a mining facility, but the Enterprise's life sensors cannot detect any life forms.


(Mr. Spock: 'What if life exists based on another element?')

Spock: "Life as we know it is universally based on some combination of carbon compounds... But what if life exists based on another element? For instance - silicon."

McCoy: "You're creating fantasies, Mr. Spock.

Kirk: "Not necessarily, Bones. I've heard the theoretical possibility of life based on silicon. But silicon-based life would be of an entirely different order.

It turns out that the problem is an animal - the Horta is a creature whose metabolism is based on silicon - living rock.


(Silicon-based lifeform - the Horta)

This discovery can only increase the chances that life can be found elsewhere in the universe. Read about how red dwarf star systems may harbor life, which also expands the places we can look for life.

Via Physorg.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/3/2010)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 4 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Fetal Lamb Rests In Artificial Womb
'... stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones, the foetuses grew and grew...' - Aldous Huxley, 1932.

Bring Back Extinct Animals! Sort of.
'The worldwide network of genetic arks had a surfeit of pachyderms...' - David Brin, 1990

Mushroom Eats Plastic, Saves Planet
Fungus Amongus, SaveUs!

Is There Extraterrestrial Life Here In The Solar System
'How fast is it moving? ...one meter per minute.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1982.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

PRAM Solar Powered Satellite Hardware Tested In Orbit
'Our beams feed these worlds energy drawn from... the Sun'

3D Printed Glass Uses Stereolithography Techniques
'All that with glass...'

Science Fiction Helps Young Readers Build Resiliency
'Reading science fiction and fantasy can help readers make sense of the world.'

I Want My 1928 Telestereo Hologram Now
'Instantly there appeared standing upon the disk, the image of a man...'

Memes Now Come From Neural Nets
'Your order said for him to be able to be able to work out twists on the gags in the file...'

Robot Dog Learns To Be Doggy From Real Dogs
'So we took pictures of Guzub making a Three Planets, and I could construct this one to do it exactly right down to the thousandth of a second.'

Unwanted Cruise Ships Huddle Together Out At Sea
'On the screen they passed in an endless, boundaryless flood of green specks...'

Sono Sion Electric Car Charges As You Drive
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'

News Mood Filter Web Extension
'He adjusted the n, the r and b knobs, and hopefully anticipated a turn for the better...'

Fetal Lamb Rests In Artificial Womb
'... stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones, the foetuses grew and grew...'

MIT Wants To Catch Interstellar Visitors
'INVESTIGATE MYSTERIOUS OBJECT ENTERING NEW CALEDONIA SYSTEM FROM NORMAL SPACE'

AutoX Sets Up Asia's Largest Robotaxi Center
'The robot cab seemed to know where it was going and, no doubt, the master machine from which it received its signals knew.'

E - Ink's Automatic Self Styling Color-Changing Dress
'The racks of gowns itched and quivered, their colors running into blurred pools.'

Soft Robots Use Kirigami Piezoelectric Sensor Skin
'A worthy opponent was the golem.'

Bosch Smartglasses Laser Paints AR Image On Your Retina
'Soon we'll be testing a system that projects directly on the retina of the eye.'

Maybe We Could Hibernate Until The Covid-19 Pandemic's End
'Cold-rest was a common last resort therapy for functional psychoses.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.