Feeds

NASA was WRONG on arsenic-gobbling aliens, claim boffins

Weird Earth bacteria need their six a day

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Scientists in Switzerland have blown apart the theory that some bacteria can live off arsenic, disproving a controversial 2010 study by NASA.

Felisa Wolfe-Simon, one of the space agency's astrobiologists, faced scepticism when she declared two years ago that she had discovered the snappily named GFAJ-1* microbe thriving in the arsenic-rich, phosphorus-depleted Mono Lake in eastern California.

It was a surprise find because phosphorus is one of the six essential ingredients for life as we know it, yet NASA's bug was apparently able to metabolise poisonous arsenic to grow.

Rather than back notions of unearthly lifeforms living off a toxic chemical element, two separate studies published in the past week have skewered the arsenic-loving bacteria conclusions. Findings from the University of Zurich suggest that GFAJ-1 is dependent on phosphorus and rather resistant to arsenic.

A second study from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, also reached the same conclusion. Its team leader, Dr Rosemary Redfield, said the original results may have been affected by phosphate contaminant in the arsenic.

Dr Wolfe-Simon of NASA's Astrobiology Institute said the latest findings do not nix her work.

"There is nothing in the data of these new papers that contradicts our published data," she said in an email to the Associated Press. Her team "continues to build upon its finding of the extreme resistance to arsenic poisoning".

GFAJ-1 Is an Arsenate-Resistant, Phosphate-Dependent Organism was published in Science on 8 July. ®

Bootnote

* GFAJ apparently stands for Give Felisa a Job, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.