Subsisting on Arsenic, a Microbe May Redefine Life

Scientists said Thursday that they had trained a bacterium to eat and grow on a diet of arsenic, in place of phosphorus — one of six elements considered essential for life — opening up the possibility that organisms could exist elsewhere in the universe or even here on Earth using biochemical powers we have not yet dared to dream about. Full Story »

Posted by Jon Mitchell - via Jen Preston, Google News (Sci/Tech), New York Times (Most Emailed), Tshiung Han See (t), George Moga (t), Ish Harshawat (t), Patrick McDermott (t), David Wardell (t), Willie Bido (t), Peter Avalos (t), Kristi Hancock (t), Salvador Sala (t), JR Russ (t), Thanh Tran (t), Joe Bonner (t), Steven K Samra (f), Gian Antelles (f), Jon Mitchell (f), Fabrice Florin (f), David Fox (f)
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Subjects: Sci/Tech, Media, Extra
Topics: Science, Space, Long News
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Posted by: Posted by Jon Mitchell - Dec 2, 2010 - 10:06 AM PST
Content Type: Article
Edit Lock: This story can be edited
Edited by: Jon Mitchell - Dec 2, 2010 - 11:53 AM PST
Jon Mitchell
4.2
by Jon Mitchell - Dec. 2, 2010

Much more thorough and informative report on NASA's announcement expanding the scientific understanding of the definition of life. The Gizmodo post that got most of the attention was overblown and apparently somewhat inaccurate.

See Full Review » (11 answers)
Lynn Caporale
4.0
by Lynn Caporale - Dec. 7, 2010

The key issue is not that the biologists' definition of life has changed but rather that the criteria that NASA probes use to recognize it will be reconsidered. Thus, while this article generally provided an excellent report of the implications, it would be stronger with a reference to a discussion of what is are essential characteristics (rather than specific molecules) of life. I have included a link to one of many articles that discuss this. In addition, this article could have presented more information regarding the science itself [see my comment], In fact, the news story focuses more on the broader implications than on the specific details of the discovery itself and key assertions that require support from ... More »

For example, this sentence, "Phosphorus chains form the backbone of DNA and its chemical bonds, particularly in a molecule known as adenosine triphosphate, the principal means by which biological creatures store energy. " mixes two separate key points: 1) was arsenic was inserted in place of phosphate in the backbone of functioning DN?A (later in the article he quotes Joyce as saying that has not been proven) 2) did arsenic replace phosphate in the key source of cell energy, ATP? ... More »

“It’s a really nice story about adaptability of our life form,” …Scientists said the results, if confirmed, would expand the notion of what life could be and ... More »

See Full Review » (12 answers)
Mary Hartney
4.0
by Mary Hartney - Dec. 3, 2010

Caleb Scharf, an astrobiologist at Columbia University who was not part of the research, said he was amazed. “It’s like if you or I morphed into fully functioning ... More »

See Full Review » (4 answers)
Elizabeth Harris
4.0
by Elizabeth Harris - Dec. 3, 2010

This story caught my eye because I had previously read a story about NASA's newest findings. I think that this gives scientists a whole new area to look for life and it could lead to really interesting things. The story was well-written and gave me so much more information than the last article I had read.

See Full Review » (11 answers)

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Links Help

  • NASA Finds New Life

    Hours before their special news conference today, the cat is out of the bag: NASA has discovered a completely new life form that doesn't share the biological building blocks ...
    Posted by Jon Mitchell
  • NASA Reveals Astrobiology Finding in Press Conference

    ContributorNetwork - A NASA astrobiology team, this afternoon, released the details of the breakthrough astrobiology finding in a press conference broadcast over the web on ...
    Posted by Ellie Kesselman
  • The Seven Pillars of Life | DE Koshland Jr. Pending

    Posted by Lynn Caporale
  • Here you can read the paper yourself Queued

    A bacterium found in the arsenic-filled waters of a Californian lake is poised to overturn scientists' understanding of the biochemistry of living organisms. The microbe seems ...
    via Tshiung Han See (t)
  • Prof. Redfield's critique

    (Blog Post) They should have mixed pregrown E. coli or other cells with the arsenate supplemented medium and then done the same purifications. They should have thoroughly washed their ...
    Posted by Lynn Caporale