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NASA Confirms Discovery of Organism With Phosphorus-Free DNA

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the well-it's-not-that-shaggy dept.

NASA 380

GNUALMAFUERTE writes "As we mentioned before, NASA's Department of Astrobiology had an important announcement to make today. It looks like Gizmodo was right. You can watch the presentation online right now. It looks like the bacteria in question uses arsenic as a phosphorus replacement in its DNA."

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First (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421742)

O wait this was already posted right?

Re:First (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421790)

Just like the discovery, it's a confirmation of something that's been previously discussed.

BAZINGA!

News flash: NASA discoveres there's life on earth! (-1, Troll)

poptones (653660) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421752)

This is sure to shut up all those naysayers who accuse NASA of being a waste of resources...

Re:News flash: NASA discoveres there's life on ear (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421820)

Uhm, this was found on Earth. Right here. Not in space, not with rockets, not by astronauts, not on the Irrational Space Station. If it had been discovered by an unaffiliated university, would it be less interesting?

Re:News flash: NASA discoveres there's life on ear (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421836)

Nice troll, dickwad.

Leave it to unimaginative dumb fucks like you to NOT find anything amazing about this.

Re:News flash: NASA discoveres there's life on ear (5, Informative)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422286)

My thoughts are as follows:

THIS IS BLOODY AMAZING! followed by a little more tempered cogitation:

Arsenate is a triprotic species just like phosphate, each has a valence of +5, and it's directly one period down on the table so available electron shells in ground state will appear very similar. However arsenic possesses filled d orbitals and is about 7% less electronegative than phosphorous - these factors, among others, tend to make arsenate a little more reactive than phosphate which would make it less stable as a backbone of DNA. So if the degree of replacement is as thorough as NASA claims (they said they cultured it with zero phosphorous present - so only trace impurities) the cell has either found a way to strengthen the backbone or has developed an amazing repair mechanism which can deal with frequent DNA damage.

NASA has two summaries here [nasa.gov] and here [nasa.gov] .

Astrobiology has an article here [astrobio.net] .

And http://www.sciencemag.org/ [slashdot.org] ">Science will release a paper later today.

Re:News flash: NASA discoveres there's life on ear (2)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421886)

This is sure to shut up all those naysayers who accuse NASA of being a waste of resources...

Apparently they have a invested in a pretty good network though. I was surprised that the video stream didn't cut out at all considering that there could be tens of thousands if not more watching.

Re:News flash: NASA discoveres there's life on ear (1)

Saxophonist (937341) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422136)

Or, Yahoo did. Besides being listed as a sponsor on the NASA TV page [nasa.gov] , if one looks at the Windows Media link (for instance) and examines the ASX file, one notes a reference to "http://playlist.yahoo.com/makeplaylist.dll?id=1369080&segment=149773". See for yourself [nasa.gov] (probably using wget).

Re:News flash: NASA discoveres there's life on ear (1)

Leebert (1694) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422142)

Apparently they have a invested in a pretty good network though.

That's because it's outsourced.

Oh, and just some brief gloating: I was in the audience. ;)

I really enjoyed the back and forth between scientists there. It was neat to see a boisterous idealist scientist talking excitedly about the possibilities being tempered by the self-described "curmudgeon" scientist cautioning about reading too deeply into the results.

First post (hopefully) (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421762)

It's life Jim, but not as we know it.

Re:First post (hopefully) (2)

syrinx (106469) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421910)

It's life Jim, but not as we know it.

You cannae change the laws of physics.

But the laws of biochemistry are open, I guess.

Re:First post (hopefully) (2)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422298)

We come in peace (shoot to kill)

Re:First post (hopefully) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421914)

If you hadn't typed that "(hopefully)", it would have been.

Re:First post (hopefully) (0)

TheCRAIGGERS (909877) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421966)

If you hadn't taken the time to type that "(hopefully)" you could have had your coveted first post.

The other jerk that beat you didn't have such issues and won by a few seconds. You need to work on your self-confidence, son.

Sweet. (1)

boxxertrumps (1124859) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421764)

Cool.

Re:Sweet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421924)

Dude.

Re:Sweet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421984)

Awesome.

Re:Sweet. (1)

zmooc (33175) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422066)

What does mine say??

Neat, but... (5, Insightful)

mikaelwbergene (1944966) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421770)

This is neat and clearly an important discovery and all, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit disappointed.

Re:Neat, but... (4, Funny)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421832)

This is neat and clearly an important discovery and all, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit disappointed.

Cheer up, the broadcast is still going. They're just using the phosphorus-free DNA as a red herring to make the final part more shocking. You know, the last minute where they reveal Bush tied to a chair, take a good grip on his nose, and pull off the human mask to reveal a reptilian overlord beneath.

Re:Neat, but... (5, Funny)

albeit unknown (136964) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422164)

This is neat and clearly an important discovery and all, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit disappointed.

Cheer up, the broadcast is still going. They're just using the phosphorus-free DNA as a red herring to make the final part more shocking. You know, the last minute where they reveal Bush tied to a chair, take a good grip on his nose, and pull off the human mask to reveal a reptilian overlord beneath.

and he would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids!

Re:Neat, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34422342)

"One more thing..."

Re:Neat, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421922)

you are disappointed because you were not expecting reality, you were expecting a Hollywood movie. But here is reality.

Re:Neat, but... (1)

XiY47 (1815860) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422028)

Just keep watching, they'll be beaming an Asgard down any minute now...

Re:Neat, but... (2)

MBCook (132727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422220)

Yesterday, some show on NPR asked their correspondents to to guess what the announcement would be, and I liked theirs better. Here are the three I can remember:
  • It's actually pronounced NAY-sa, not NA-sa
  • All astronauts can actually fly. If you put a normal person in space, they would still be bound by gravity
  • We've known the moon was made of cheese, but no one suspected it is actually made of Cheeze-Wiz

Re:Neat, but... (1, Funny)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422284)

This is what girls used to tell me... always.

First life form! (1)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421778)

made of arsenic.

Yawn (1)

McTickles (1812316) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421784)

Yawn, so when do they go after aliens? I mean come on it would be about time now that we got us some alien babes!

Re:Yawn (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422168)

With all that arsenic I doubt they will smell very good.

USA Today (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421808)

The question from USA Today about not pulling E.T. out of a hat makes me depressed. I doubt that if there was an actual extraterrestrial life form it would be put on stage. At best we'd get autopsy pictures after they kill it from running tests.

Why all the fuss? (1, Offtopic)

voislav98 (1004117) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421816)

I just don't see the need for a special press conference, since the general public will be goings "Arse-whaat"

Re:Why all the fuss? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34422232)

since the general public will be goings "Arse-whaat"

No. That's what your mom said.

Re:Why all the fuss? (4, Insightful)

Amouth (879122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422312)

because this confirms many unproven ideas that not all "life" is in the same form as we are a custom too - other than this.. all life that we knew before now on earth used the same base DNA structure..

basically they have found life.. not as we know it.. and means that some of our methods for proving there isn't life some place might be flawed.

Someone get the Selenium! (2)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421824)

Someone get a fire engine, some Selenium, and David Duchovney.

Re:Someone get the Selenium! (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422024)

I think no one was happier with this announcement than Head and Shoulders. Probably should have bought some stock in them.

Not Phosphorus-Free (5, Informative)

Elder Entropist (788485) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421828)

It replaces MOST phosphorus atoms with arsenic, but not all.

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (3, Insightful)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421904)

But it's still a carbon-based life-form right?

(Not that I'm trying to diminish this, I think it's awesome. Just trying to get my facts straight.)

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422022)

Yes.

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (5, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422036)

That's correct. The carbons (and hydrogens and oxygens and nitrogens) are all where they should be. It's only the phosphorus that has been swapped out, for arsenic (right below it on the periodic table).

In fact arsenic is toxic to you precisely because it takes the place of phosphorus so easily, without doing all of the jobs. Except for this little guy, who manages to work around the differences and survive nearly phosphorus-free.

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (4, Insightful)

pi_is_after_you (857195) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422118)

That's what surprises me. If it's on the same column, it will have roughly the same properties and fit in the same reactions, but have vastly different reaction rates and affinities. So, does this thing replace phosphorous in DNA/RNA, ATP, and phospholipids? What about phosphorylation? /p.s. This is my first post to slashdot in approximately 4 years

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (2)

JustSomeProgrammer (1881750) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422258)

From what I remember hearing they specifically mentions DNA RNA and ATP I didn't hear mention of the other two specifically, but that might be because I'm at work and listened while working. (Mostly the only reason I remember the ATP is because they made a joke about students knowing what that was.)

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422340)

In fact arsenic is toxic to you precisely because it takes the place of phosphorus so easily, without doing all of the jobs. Except for this little guy, who manages to work around the differences and survive nearly phosphorus-free.

Makes me wonder if this is an organism which has adapted to tolerate the damage from arsenic which would kill us.

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (3, Informative)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422062)

Well, as much as anything is carbon based, yes. We are carbon-hydrogen-oxygen-nitrogen-sulfur-phosphorus-based, this one is carbon-hydrogen-oxygen-nitrogen-sulfur-phosphorus/arsenic-based. That still makes for a major metabolic difference, but it is still biologically related to us. Same tree of life. Still way cool, though.

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (1)

yincrash (854885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422102)

Correct, but the panel considers it on par with finding a silicon-based life form ala star trek.

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (0)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422110)

But it's still a carbon-based life-form right?

It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (5, Insightful)

sam_handelman (519767) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422154)

Yes, it is still carbon-based.

  In fact, this appears to be a biochemically-interesting but seriously overhyped discovery.

  AFAICT, this organism still uses the same genetic code, the same nucleotide bases, the same ribose sugars, the same everything - only this organism performs a chemical modification of the phosphate backbone, substituting in arsenic. This is only moderately different from the chemical modifications that we make to our own DNA, RNA and proteins (methylation, for example.)

  That's not a particularly shocking substitution, from a chemical standpoint, and doesn't really say anything about the viability of an organism with an actually *alien* biochemistry. Now, if you look at the periodic table, you'll see that Arsenic is right below Phosphorous - so in a sense, this is a bit like the much more exciting Carbon -> Silicon change which might get you talking rocks on lava worlds breathing vaporized sand and other badass shit. But it's only a tiny bit similar to that, because the role that Phosphorous plays in biology is much different than that of Carbon. Carbon is what everything is made-out-of, Phosphorous is stuck onto the ends of things in order to provide high-energy bonds which can be exploited as an energy currency.

  I would bet that this organism does this as a defense against viruses - which, generally speaking, will not have arsenic-DNA or arsenic-RNA, and so would not be able to infect this organism.

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (5, Informative)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422322)

From a biochemist's point of view, this is a huge substitution, as phosphate and arsenate compounds do usually not coexist well in organisms, hence the toxicity of arsenic. While "everything is made out of carbon", carbon is the rather boring compound that gives stuff its structure. High-energy-bonds, like formed by certain phosphate compounds, give stuff the energy to actually DO things. The virus defense theory is way off, btw - this bacterium evolved in a high-arsenic environment, so this is way more likely a way to cope with the chemical composition of its evolutionary niche.

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (5, Funny)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421996)

It replaces MOST phosphorus atoms with arsenic, but not all.

Correct. It replaces the rest with old lace.

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34422054)

I read a text article on the NASA website, but it didn't really mention this issue.

Which phosphorus atoms are replaced? Those in ADP/ATP? DNA? Cell membranes? Something else?

(Sorry, we don't get very large caps here in ZA and I can't waste it all watching videos on the 2nd.)

Regardless, I for one (1)

Master Moose (1243274) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422072)

welcome or (almost) phosphorus free overlords

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (4, Interesting)

yincrash (854885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422076)

To be very clear, Felisa (the primary paper author) stated during the Q&A that all they know for sure is that there is not enough phosphorus in the bacteria for it's biochemical processes and the only reasonable conclusion is that arsenic is taking it's place. Not enough analysis to know percentages of what is using what.

Re:Not Phosphorus-Free (1)

pz (113803) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422144)

It replaces MOST phosphorus atoms with arsenic, but not all.

After listening to the conference, it appears they don't know if it actively replaces phosphorous with arsenic, or it's happily living that way already. The experiment (based on listening to the lead author talk about it, which should be good enough, and if it isn't, I blame the author) was that they took a dollop of Mono Lake mud and put it in a laboratory environment that was rich in everything except (a) it wholly lacked phosphorus (how did they eliminate the phosphorus from the mud?) and (b) it had a "double helping" (her words) of arsenic. Then, they waited to see what would grow. The bacterium subsequently isolated had arsenic in place of phosphorus in isolated parts of its DNA and perhaps other important molecules, but that is after application of arsenic stress, not before.

Anyone know for certain?

Can N.A.S.A. Confirm The U.S. Embassy Cable (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421854)

from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton directing U.S. diplomats to hack [guardian.co.uk] foreign diplomats frequent flier and credit cards?

Yours In Electrogorsk,
K. Trout

Meme Me (-1, Redundant)

wynterwynd (265580) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421870)

I, for one, welcome our new "I, for one, welcome our new arsenic-based overlords" comment thread.

Let me be the first to say that (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421876)

I for one welcome our arsenic underlings.

ASTRObiological? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421880)

It doesn't seem like a very ASTRObiological discovery. It obviously has possible implications for astrobiology, but it seems more like a biological discovery.

I for one... (0)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421888)

I for one welcome our new arsenic overlords.

Now that's out of the way, do we understand the implications yet? Is this suggesting the bacteria might have piggybacked on an meteor? Could it have developed naturally on Earth? How might the arsenic-based DNA affect life forms based on it?

Re:I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34422170)

There was an explanation at the start which suggested that it was accidentally incorporated into a normal cell at first when there wasn't enough phosphorus around and that since then the cells found a way to handle the weaker bonds it would give, so the current idea seems to be a "standard" organism adjusting to life with arsenic on Earth.

How the arsenic DNA affects the life form is up for grabs at the minute. There is a NASA article here [nasa.gov] which has images of the cells grown on both phosphorus and arsenic so it seems happy enough to use either. It'll probably need some coping-mechanisms to deal with the toxicity and weaker bonds of arsenic that were mentioned by the biochemist during the show. A few things that were said in the release imply that it's perfectly capable of using both at the same time, which could be interesting. Bacteria often accumlulate polyphosphate chains for all sorts of regulatory and energy functions. It'll be neat to see if this could use polyarsenate or even a polyphosphate/arsenate mix.

Obligatory Star Trek Reference (0)

Antimatter Beam Core (1892512) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421894)

It's life, Captain, but not life as we know it.

Announce an Announcement... (2, Insightful)

RocketRabbit (830691) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421900)

NASA has really started to irritate me, with their latest few announcements. Rather than just issuing the data and having a little show about its implications in NASA TV, they first make an announcement that they will make an announcement, then for a few weeks there is rampant speculation (even though it's entirely probable that the data is ready) and finally they make their announcement in a media-circus style event.

NASA should just make the damn announcements on their web site and on their TV channel, and let the science press (read: science tabloids) publish it as they will.

If their current trend continues, pretty soon NASA will be announcing their announcement of their announcement of a press conference to announce their data. It's a waste of time and energy for everybody. I don't know about you, but I simply want my news, I don't want news that there will be news of note in the near future.

Re:Announce an Announcement... (5, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422018)

NASA has really started to irritate me, with their latest few announcements. Rather than just issuing the data and having a little show about its implications in NASA TV, they first make an announcement that they will make an announcement, then for a few weeks there is rampant speculation (even though it's entirely probable that the data is ready) and finally they make their announcement in a media-circus style event.

They probably hired a PR manager who used to work at Apple.

Re:Announce an Announcement... (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422104)

It's PR, and it's cheap.

It means someone will cover the event instead of the event being covered by anyone who happened to be sleeping in the press room when the event began.

Not doing it this way is a gig against the past PR people.

Not phosphorus free, not just DNA. (4, Informative)

Confusedent (1913038) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421908)

It wasn't phosphorus free, in fact they hadn't confirmed how much of the phosphorus had been substituted with arsenic, but they did mentioned it was not 100%. They also mentioned it was more than just DNA (ATP was also mentioned, although they implied more).

now back to boring astronauts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421926)

floating in space....

real info (5, Informative)

burris (122191) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421928)

According to this NYT article [nytimes.com] this is a normal earthly bacterium that, when placed in an environment full of arsenic, started swapping arsenic for phosphorus. It's not a totally new form of life unrelated to what we know.

Re:real info (1, Funny)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422150)

I want my money back!!!

Re:real info (4, Informative)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422194)

But it sort of is.

We've always ignored the chances of life on extraterrestrial bodies with significant levels of arsenic on the empirically founded theory that arsenic doesn't work in place of phosporus in living systems.

So while this is a lifeform we already knew about, it's a different form of life from what we understood.

The question remains, is it possible for DNA to have evolved in an environment rich in arsenic, or would it have had to evolve in an arsenic-free environment, and just happen to have enough integrity once it's formed to tolerate the replacement of phosphorus atoms with arsenic atoms?

Re:real info (1)

AmElder (1385909) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422328)

Exactly, under laboratory conditions an arsenic-rich environment doesn't kill it, in fact the bacterium continues to grow, though not as quickly as in an environment that contains phosphorus. Using radioactive isotopes to trace the distribution of arsenic through the organism revealed the chemical in important molecules like proteins, DNA, and ATP. Discover Magazine has published a good blog post [discovermagazine.com] that explains what the research does and doesn't show so far.

The scientist who lead the team who conducted the experiment is pretty cool [ironlisa.com] . And it seems she's found a research project for the rest of her life.

Not Phosphorus-Free DNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421946)

See The F*** Conference!
Felisa said that there's just too little phosphorus to account for all the microbes, not that they were phosphorus-free, and acknowledged that there may be som phosphorus left in the DNA.

Not space news (1)

PingXao (153057) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421962)

Kirk and Spock discovered the Horta over 40 years ago and this is about the same thing. While interesting, this experiment took place here on earth and the results had to be coerced. Not saying it couldn't happen in the wild somewhere out there, but the announcement was anticlimactic.

Zombie Apocalypse (0, Offtopic)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421976)

Gee a germ that uses poison for it's DNA!
This is how the Zombie Apocalypse will start.
Boy am I glad I put my 401k into Remingoton and Campbell's soup.

Obligatory question (5, Funny)

JamesP (688957) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421980)

How I am supposed to poison the darn thing now??!?!

Re:Obligatory question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34422048)

With phosphorous, obviously.

Gizmodo was not right (5, Informative)

commisaro (1007549) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421986)

The Gizmodo article, like most of the speculation, was largely overblown:

NASA has discovered a completely new life form that doesn't share the biological building blocks of anything currently living in planet Earth, using arsenic to build its DNA, RNA, proteins, and cell membranes. This changes everything.

That is not the case. The DNA is largely the same, except that phosphorous has been exchanged with Arsenic. Don't get me wrong, this is still a hugely interesting discovery, but it was implied during the pre-conference speculation that this was an entirely separate instance of abiogenesis, and that is simply not the case, unfortunately.

Re:Gizmodo was not right (1)

Kurofuneparry (1360993) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422188)

Yeah, this is another from gizmodo:

this bacteria is made of arsenic, something that was thought to be completely impossible. While Simon and other scientists theorized that this could be possible, this is the first discovery.

Over-sold cognitive dissonance: the mainstay of journalists writing about science. Then again.... I'm an idiot...

Re:Gizmodo was not right (2)

TimmyDee (713324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422202)

Somehow I'm not surprised. As a gadget blogger, he got in waaaay over his head by speculating about a microbiology discovery.

In other words, typical Gizmodo/Gawker.

Panspermia (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422010)

I recall one of the arguments against panspermia, the origin of life from space and particularly molecular clouds, was a lack of phosphorus (a lithophile). Interesting that phosphorus deficit is part of this experiment.

Re:Panspermia (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422222)

Oops. There's a lack of arsenic there, too.

I don't understand this (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422038)

Can someone post a link to something explaining the significance of the discovery for the layperson?

Re:I don't understand this (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422236)

It is more evidence to support the hypothesis that life could be made from different elements than the ones that life as we know it are made from. Your DNA, like most living organisms' DNA, is made from five elements: hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus. This is evidence that DNA could be made using arsenic instead of phosphorus, which has similar chemical properties.

Personally, I think it would have been more exciting if they had discovered silicon based life, which would be a life form that uses silicon instead of carbon, but this is cool too...

Re:I don't understand this (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422254)

There is none.

Scientists will ask for grant money based on expanding the search for life in outer space.

It will keep a few scientists employed, and maybe in the future we'll be able to do something with the information we learn from their research.

Nothing of value will come of it for any currently living layperson who does not see the value in science as an intellectual pursuit.

Arsenic and Old GFA-J1 (5, Insightful)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422044)

The discovery of this microorganism that can use arsenic to build its cellular components may indicate that life can form in the absence of large amounts of available phosphorus, thus increasing the probability of finding life elsewhere in the universe. The find gives weight to the long-standing idea that life on other planets may have a radically different chemical makeup and may help in hunt for alien life. [wikipedia.org]

The more we think we know about, the greater the unknown... -Neil Peart

Re:Arsenic and Old GFA-J1 (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422274)

Yup. The Arsenide-based-Phosphorus lifeforms will be found sitting on a rock next to the Silicon-based lifeforms.

Re:Arsenic and Old GFA-J1 (1)

Wocka_Wocka (1895714) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422296)

The discovery of this microorganism that can use arsenic to build its cellular components may indicate that life can form in the absence of large amounts of available phosphorus, thus increasing the probability of finding life elsewhere in the universe.

To me, this is not indication that life can form on other planets with chemical makeups vastly different from that of our planet. This is an organism that formed with phosphorus and could survive with As replacing P. Also, in the experiments, there was not a complete exchange of P and As. These findings cannot be construed to mean that life forms spontaneously without P present -- the argument can be made that P is still necessary for the formation of life.

Great! So how do they taste? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34422046)

Can anyone try a sample and let me know?

Man made though, not naturally occuring (2)

JTsyo (1338447) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422060)

Wolfe-Simon's team took mud containing bacteria from the arsenic-rich Mono Lake and grew them in ever decreasing concentrations of phosphorous. Their rationale was that since arsenic is just below phosphorous in the periodic table, and shares many of its chemical properties and is even used as a source of energy for some bacteria, the bugs would be able to swap one for the other. That is just what happened.

From the New Scientist article. While it's possible, it hasn't been found in nature. The article also mentions why it might be unlikely. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19805-arseniceating-bacteria-point-to-new-life-forms.html [newscientist.com]

.Steven Benner, a chemist from the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainesville, Florida, who works on alternative forms of DNA, is sceptical that the bacteria really do contain arsenic. "I doubt these results," he says, since in order to measure the modified DNA it has to be put into a water-containing gel, which would rapidly dissolve any arsenate molecules. Any hypothesis that arsenate might replace phosphate in biomolecules must take this into account, he says.

NASA? (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422068)

We're doing terrestrial-based bio experiments now? Shouldn't this be left to Con-Agra in an effort to find tastier corn?

Re:NASA? (1)

Hinhule (811436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422230)

I don't know about you, but I'll keep my arsenic free corn.

Hardly deserves the "New Life" headline.. (0)

slashkitty (21637) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422084)

They just bred a relatively common form of bacteria and gave it arsenic instead of phosphorus. It survived, but not as well.

People are running around saying NASA discovered alien life.... and that's just wrong.

Re:Hardly deserves the "New Life" headline.. (3, Informative)

andrewd18 (989408) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422148)

This wasn't "bred" or modified by the scientists from an existing bacterium, it was occurring naturally in Mono Lake and was transported to the lab for concentrated study. That was the second-to-last question answered in the NASA TV broadcast.

Now we wait 7 billion years (1)

colnago (91472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422100)

and see if we can find analogous evolutionary behavior to substantiate carbon-based macro hypotheses

Odd... (1)

HokieBill (1942326) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422108)

"While this new life form hasn't been found in another planet..." Looks like NASA is doing a bit more than looking towards the skies. I'm a little uncomfortable with all this.

Drake Equation (1)

TheCount22 (952106) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422134)

This is interesting. I wonder what the implications for the drake equation are.

If life evolved twice independently on earth I would think that life in the universe is quite common. Time will tell if this is indeed the case.

On the other hand if life did not evolve twice independently. Wouldn't this mean that if life branched at a very early stage theories like panspermia are less likely?

Re:Drake Equation (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422238)

From all I got from the conference, this is not a second independent case of life developing on earth. The bacterium in question is probably a proteobacterium, so it didn't even branch off very early. Just one of the most weird extremophile adaptations observed so far. There are still implications for the Drake equation, imo. The phosphorus metabolism forms such a basic, integral part of our biochemistry that showing that there are alternatives definitely opens up more environments suitable for the development of life. As usual with the Drake equation, don't ask me to quantify anything here :P

You will tremble in its WRATH! (1)

Jetrel (514839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422184)

I for one welcome my new arsenic replaced phosphorus DNA’d bacteria overlord and hope for a long and prosperous reign!

All hail the new arsenic replaced phosphorus DNA’d bacteria!!

Not a discovery - a creation (1)

ayahner (696000) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422192)

Specifically, they had an idea that it was possible, and they tested it.

It certainly opens the door to ideas Star Trek fans have had for 40+ years.

Crighton characters also discussed in at length in the novel Sphere.

wtf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34422198)

forced to download plugins to watch? No thanks. If I can't watch it with VLC, flash, or common html I ain't botherin to watch. Comeon NASA, quicktime, realplayer, and windows media player are shit.

The species is named GFAJ-1 (1)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422224)

And I for one welcome our new GFAJ-1 overlords. Whatever. Here's a link to the Wikipedia article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GFAJ-1 [wikipedia.org]

NASA Discovers life in California! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34422290)

unfortunately it isn't intelligent :-(

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