Researchers find bacteria that “very likely” use arsenic in their DNA


In what apparently is the first exception to the principle that has been long thought to govern the fundamental chemistry of life, researchers at the NASA news conference on Thursday disclosed the creation of microbes that “very likely” use arsenic in their DNA, rather than phosphorus which is a basic component in the ladder of DNA, as well as several key ingredients of cellular machinery.

The finding, published online in the Thursday edition of journal Science, is a significant one, given the fact that it has thus far been believed six vital elements that all organisms have in common, namely: oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, sulfur, and phosphorus.

According to the researchers, the bacteria that they grew in the lab apparently used arsenic in the most important parts of their working biology, including their spiral backbone of DNA. In case the finding is substantiated, scientists will have to add lethal element 33 to the so-called structural kit for survival.

In reporting their findings, a team of researchers revealed that they had discovered the noteworthy quality in a bacterium growing calmly in Mono Lake, California. The researchers believe that the bacterium is the only known life form which can manage to survive on the noxious element arsenic.

Noting that the revelation was mind-boggling, NASA research fellow Felisa Wolfe-Simon, the biochemist who first identified the bacterium, said in a statement: “The mere fact that an organism can grow with this much arsenic, that's outrageous.”


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