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Field of Astrobiology More Vital Than Ever Given Recent Major NASA Finding
New Rochelle, NY, December 7, 2010—NASA-funded research has uncovered a new life form on Earth, a microorganism that can not only survive but can thrive and reproduce by metabolizing arsenic, a chemical that is highly toxic for most other earthly organisms. This finding will revolutionize the field of astrobiology—the study of the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., has been the defining journal in this exciting area of study for the last decade. Table of contents and a free sample issue are available online.
The new form of life, discovered in Mono Lake in California, a harsh environment with high salt, pH, and arsenic levels, represents a new strain of a common family of bacteria. It is able to substitute arsenic for phosphorus, one of the six basic building blocks of all forms of life on Earth. The microbe utilizes arsenic in place of phosphorus to build critical cell components, including its DNA, proteins, cell membranes, and energy-producing machinery.
“The discovery of a bacterium capable of substituting arsenate for phosphate in essential biomolecules impacts astrobiology in a number of ways,” says Sherry L. Cady, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal Astrobiology and Professor in the Department of Geology at Portland State University. “It is quite astonishing to learn that this life form has the capacity to function in a way no other known life form can. The directed search for this biochemistry, revealed by routine methods, was essential to this find and an important lesson. Astrobiology search strategies for environments that harbor microbes with such biochemistries now increase in a way few have predicted. We are delighted that Astrobiologyhas been the premier peer-reviewed journal exploring issues surrounding weird life and other provocative findings.”
Led by Professor Cady and a prominent international editorial board comprised of esteemed scientists in the field, Astrobiology is the authoritative resource for the most up-to-date information and perspectives on exciting new research findings and discoveries emanating from interplanetary exploration and terrestrial field and laboratory research programs. The Journal is published 10 times a year in print and online, and is the Official Journal of Astrobiology Society. A complete table of contents may be viewed online.