Discovery of arsenic eating bacterium opens up new vistas for extra terrestrial life exploration
04 December 2010
A scientific discovery has expanded the horizon for exploration of extraterrestrial life.
According to a report published today in the journal Science researchers have isolated the first microorganism that can live using a 'toxic' chemical.
NASA astrobiologist Dr Felisa Wolfe-Simon of the US Geological Survey led the research, which isolated a bacterium strain GFAJ-1, which uses arsenic instead of phosphorus.
The samples of GFAJ-1bacteria, which belongs to the Halomonadaceae family of proteobacteria, were recovered from the toxic, briny waters of Mono Lake, California.
Wolfe-Simon said though it was known that some microbes can breathe arsenic, GFAJ-1 does something with the substance that has never been seen before, it builds parts of itself out of arsenic.
The six elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur and phoshorus constitute much of the stuff of life. These elements are supplemented by trace amounts of other elements used in cellular functions, such as enzyme co-factors.