Aliens are now very probable, and not very far away!
The discovery of a bacterium able to grow from arsenic disrupts a fundamental aspect of science.
NASA had said preparing a big announcement for the evening which "will affect the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life." The space agency has finally been surpassed on Thursday evening, she would have discovered a new form of life in a lake in California. You can follow within hours the news conference from NASA and live video.
These bacteria can grow from arsenic and incorporate the violent natural poison in his DNA.
For researchers, this is "a resounding discovery that overturns the search for life on Earth and beyond." This bacterium is not only capable of surviving the arsenic, but it also incorporates elements in its own DNA and cells.
A redefinition of the fundamentals of science!
|Mono lake - California (Aerial view)|
This discovery is redefining what science considers the basic elements necessary for the development of life: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur.
It all started with a discussion between three scientists a few years ago on the possibility that different life forms can exist on Earth. The three scientists have published in 2009 a research speculating that arsenic can substitute for phosphorus (which are close on the periodic table of elements) in early forms of life on Earth.
One of the scientists, Felisa Wolfe-Simon, then left to experiment in Mono Lake, California, which has high levels of salt and arsenic, where she has collected sediment. "She took this sediment, put in a bottle containing essentially very little arsenic and phosphorus," says Dr. Anbar.
|The GFAJ-1 bacteria grow on arsenic|
Ultimately, a bacterium that has survived, known as strain GFAJ-1. "This is a known bacterium , says Dr. Anbar. But nobody had yet realized that she could do this". "What is new here is that arsenic is used as a building block for an entire different biology." said Prof. Anbar, co-author of the work.
"We had this idea that life requires six elements without exception (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur)," he said. "Now it turns out that there might well be an exception," he adds.
The aliens and medical possibilities
Beyond life on Earth, the fact that bacteria can grow in arsenic might suggest that life forms are possible on other planets yet deemed unlivable.
Whatever the scope of this work, Dr. Anbar recognizes that the discovery of extraterrestrial life is still far from the agenda.
|Felisa Wolfe-Simon in Mono lake taking samples from a sediment|
But the surprising properties of the bacteria found in Mono Lake, which may have an interest in medicine, laying the groundwork for new thinking. And more: "Maybe there are other exceptions to which we should think." Said Professor Anbar
"We're very influenced by life as we know it and it is therefore difficult to consider something else. But how far can we go? At what point can life be different and still exist?" , he asked.