Feeds

Fireflies aid hunt for ET

Little green bugs seek little green men

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Fireflies could in future help scientists in the search for extraterrestrial life.

The insects contain a chemical called luciferase and it's this that makes the bugs glow.

Luciferase is already used in various forms of bioanalysis - in particular for analysing DNA and as a positive indicator for the presence of bacteria. It reacts with all living material to create light, and this makes it a good candidate for use in the search for biological life on Mars. There's just one small problem.

Luciferase is temperature dependent and just doesn't work when the heat is on. Anything sent to Mars must be able to withstand some temperature variation to be viable, and this is where a team of Swedish boffins comes in.

They've managed to get the stuff to glow at much higher temperatures than normal - up to 37 degrees centigrade - using what doctoral student at the Stockholm's Royal Institute of Technology, Jonas Eriksson, calls a thermodynamic "magic trick".

Although this breakthrough paves the way for equipping future rovers like Spirit and Opportunity with bio-detecting sensors, the most immediate benefit is more accurate analysis of DNA using pyrosequencing. At lower temperatures, reactions can occur that render test results difficult to interpret, but with the thermodynamic trick Eriksson has discovered, this is no longer a problem.

So, next stop for the humble firefly - the Red Planet? ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.