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Biotech Earth Space Science

DNA-Less 'Red Rain' Cells Reproduce At 121 C 149

Posted by timothy
from the that-beats-most-hot-tubs dept.
eldavojohn writes "A new paper up for prepublication from the controversial solid-state physicist Godfrey Louis claims that the cells Louis collected from a Keralan red rain incident divide and produce daughter cells at 121 degrees Celsius. While unusual, this is not unheard of as the paper recalls cells cultivated from hydrothermal vents are known to reproduce at 121 C as well. Of course, caution is exercised when dealing with the possible explanation surrounding the theory of panspermia but the MIT Technology Review says researchers 'examined the way these fluoresce when bombarded with light and say it is remarkably similar to various unexplained emission spectra seen in various parts of the galaxy. One such place is the Red Rectangle, a cloud of dust and gas around a young star in the Monocerous constellation.'"
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DNA-Less 'Red Rain' Cells Reproduce At 121 C

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  • Just sequence them.. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @03:22PM (#33456658)

    Proving they are not common terrestrial microbes is easy: just sequence them. Run them trough an extraction kit, PCR with pro- and eukaryote specific primers, sequence and BLAST in NBCI. If they don't amplify (and the controls do), then they might be unique. If they do amplify, the BLAST will tell you what they could be, or at least what they are related to. Der....

  • by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @03:32PM (#33456788) Homepage

    And the material [wikipedia.org] found in the rain bears a striking, if superficial, resemblance to red blood cells [wikipedia.org].

  • by jdpars (1480913) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @03:38PM (#33456868)
    When did astrophysicists start peer-reviewing biology-related articles authoritatively?
  • Re: Old info (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @03:47PM (#33456984)

    A cell wall was always a hard one to explain since we seem to jump from viruses to one cells organisms.

    Actually, the cell wall is just about the easiest thing to explain. Just take a bunch of short-chain molecules that are hydrophobic on one end and hydrophilic on the other and throw them in water, and the self-organize into pockets very like the cell wall.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @03:47PM (#33456994)

    I can't vouch for the following, but.... According to critics, the reason that DNA wasn't seen in light microscopy was because a) he used the wrong kind of stain, which doesn't typically work for algae, b) this is an algae spore, c) the walls of the spore are too strong for most stains to absorb into it, and d) the walls also impede light microscopy, making it even more challenging if he did use the right kind of stain. There is a discussion of that in wikipedia under "criticisms" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_rain_in_Kerala

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @03:49PM (#33457004)
    Actually reading the paper shows that the terminology used tends to assume what is to be demonstrated. Calling the objects "cells" and the structures that appear in them "daughter cells" is a little bit hyperbolic. They could equally well be called "bubbles" and "internal bubbles".

    Which is not to say they are wrong. There is a lot of speculation that neither DNA nor RNA were the actual encoding means of early life, but some other double helix that was more stable in the radiation and temperature extremes of early Earth. If this research justifies an in-depth study of what is in those hypothetical "nuclei" and what comprises that "cell membrane", that should tell us whether this is for real or whether it's some kind of nonliving artefact.

  • Activate Wildfire (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PinkyGigglebrain (730753) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @04:01PM (#33457154)
    Andromeda has arrived.
  • Re:Doubtful claims (Score:4, Interesting)

    by smellsofbikes (890263) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @04:38PM (#33457588) Journal
    I'm in complete agreement with you, but some stuff occurs to me, in reading more about this.

    1. If he's just an attention whore, he could have found some weird bacterium that uses RNA and claim -- and be technically correct -- that there is no DNA. That'd be surprising, but not anywhere nearly as surprising as finding something that appears to be reproducing without nucleic acids.

    2. From other reading about red rain, it appears that his attempts to find DNA were restricted to malachite green and ethidium bromide, and the current theory by people who aren't him is that he's got a bunch of yeast spores, which are going to have cell walls impermeable to both so he's not going to detect DNA even if it's there, or at least not by such relatively crude techniques.

    3. I wonder about metabolites. If the stuff *is* from outer space, it might not have the typical ultra-fast metabolism we see in common Earth bacteria, where energy is plentiful and the only real competitive tool available to prokaryotes is rapid reproduction. Something from outer space might act more like some of the archaea or mycobacteria that take days to reproduce -- or years -- rather than the half-hour cycles we're used to seeing in many bacteria. If this thing has a reproductive cycle measured in days or months, it's going to take a lot of time and quantitative analysis to actually see it metabolising.

    4. While I agree with your statement that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, I do have to wonder: what explanation of the origin of life *isn't* extraordinary? Every theory of earth-bound biogenesis I've read is pretty difficult reading. This one does have the advantage of offloading the origin-of-life-on-earth, in which case you can at least claim that maybe biogenesis only happened once somewhere else and is being blown all over the Universe, rather than having only one planet and only a billion years in which to fit your explanation.

  • by fractoid (1076465) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:58PM (#33460920) Homepage
    I must admit, I'm developing a healthy skepticism of any such announcement coming out of India. I'm sure there are millions of very capable, respectable scientists there but there's also a large element of superstitious nonsense, and it seems to be this element that's running the media. *sigh* It's like that guy claiming to have not eaten for 60 years because he sustains himself purely on yogic vedic nonsense. Funny how they announced they were observing him closely, and then just went quiet about it after a few days... no big article saying "yep, old guy is just another faker" though.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 03, 2010 @03:22AM (#33462316)
    Sorry, no; George's insanity has nothing to do with his being or not being the king of Siam. If George is sane, all else being equal, he is still not the king of Siam, but he can still falsely claim to be. All you've shown is that we routinely take shortcuts to evaluate beliefs, which is a perfectly fine thing to do if you don't want to spend every second of your life logically evaluating everything anyone ever says.

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