Discovery of Arsenic Microbe Announced at News Conference

NASA-supported researchers have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism, which lives in California’s Mono Lake, substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in the backbone of its DNA and other cellular components.

“The definition of life has just expanded,” said Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s A microscopic image of GFAJ-1 grown on arsenicHeadquarters in Washington. “As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.”

The results of this study will inform ongoing research in many areas, including the study of Earth’s evolution, organic chemistry, biogeochemical cycles, disease mitigation and Earth system research. These findings also will open up new frontiers in microbiology and other areas of research.

“The idea of alternative biochemistries for life is common in science fiction,” said Carl Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “Until now a life form using arsenic as a building block was only theoretical, but now we know such life exists in Mono Lake.”

Excerpt from Science @ NASA

Link to a large image.

2 thoughts on “Discovery of Arsenic Microbe Announced at News Conference”

  1. I was glued to NASA TV during the press conference on this subject. I think the video of that conference should be made available to Middle School and High School students around the country. Perhaps it would stimulate more interest in and greater understanding of the scientific process. Please post the full video of that exceptional and exciting news conference on the web somewhere.

    Ross McCluney

  2. Thanks Mono Lake ,
    I hope it’s a great discovery in the field of microorganism. In present time our Environment getting Toxic so like these microbe we can discover many so that we can reduce toxicity in our environment…….
    With best wishes to NASA SUPPORTED RESEARCHERS….

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