December 2010 Archives

NASA-Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical

As I am sure many of you already know, there was a new bacteria, strain GFAJ-1, discovered by NASA scientists in Lake Mono in California that is able to use Arsenic as a building block in the place of phosphorus. I found a nice simple to read article explaining the details of this discovery on NASA's website entitled NASA-Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical . The bacteria were found in Lake Mono which has very high salinity, alkalinity, and levels of arsenic. Arsenic is poisonous to all known forms of life on earth because its similar structure and chemical behavior to phosphorus cause it to interfere with metabolic pathways. However, this new bacteria is able to work in place of phosphorus when phosphorus is in short supply or is absent all together. This discovery will expand the current definition of life and will open up new doors of research in the field of microbiology. Although the implications of this finding are not extraordinarily dramatic, it is interesting to wonder about other ways that life is able to function that we haven't considered yet.

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