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It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it!

December 6, 2010

In a news conference, NASA announced the discovery of a different form of life found here on Earth.  What’s peculiar about this bacteria is that not only does it love arsenic, it also loves to incorporate it into its DNA!  That’s ARSENIC, which is one of the most poisonous elements on the planet.

Now, as a quick biology lesson for those of us who never took the subject, and that includes me, but we have always been told that life, all life, requires 6 essential elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and then phosphorus and sulphur.

So this new bacteria, GFAJ-1, has really shook up the science books by showing that it’s able to replace phosphorus with arsenic in its DNA, and so it doesn’t really need it.  And yes, that’s in DNA, that famous and important molecule whose role is to store and transfer genetic information for all life on this planet.

So what does this mean?  Who knows!  But for sure, there might be other forms of bacteria that can do a similar trick or might not even use phosphorus at all!

By extension, if we do find life out there somewhere, that life might be more familiar to Jim than we first thought!

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From → Earth, Space

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