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Biotech Space Science

Revived Microbe May Hold Clues For ET Lifeforms 126

krou writes "Science Daily is reporting that a microbe, Herminiimonas glaciei, buried some 3 km under glacial ice in Greenland, and believed to have been frozen for some 120,000 years, has been brought back to life (abstract). The microbe, some ten to fifty times smaller than E. coli, was brought back over several months by slowly incubating it at gradually increasing temperatures. After 11.5 months, the microbe began to replicate. Scientists believe that it could help us understand how life may exist on other planets. Dr. Jennifer Loveland-Curtze, who headed up the team of scientists from Pennsylvania State University, said: 'These extremely cold environments are the best analogues of possible extraterrestrial habitats. ... [S]tudying these bacteria can provide insights into how cells can survive and even grow under extremely harsh conditions, such as temperatures down to -56C, little oxygen, low nutrients, high pressure and limited space.' She also added that it 'isn't a pathogen and is not harmful to humans, but it can pass through a 0.2 micron filter, which is the filter pore size commonly used in sterilization of fluids in laboratories and hospitals. If there are other ultra-small bacteria that are pathogens, then they could be present in solutions presumed to be sterile. In a clear solution very tiny cells might grow but not create the density sufficient to make the solution cloudy.'"
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Revived Microbe May Hold Clues For ET Lifeforms

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @05:15PM (#28353761)

    From TFAbstract, the bacteria are 0.043 um^3 in volume. I know they're rod-shaped, but a sphere of that volume has a radius of 0.22 um; depending on the aspect ratio of the rod, they could be narrow enough to pass through 0.2 um pores (eg, if the rod is 0.2 um in diameter, it would have to be 1.4 um long). And yes, I know the pore size is nominal. Either way, there are far tighter filters that could be used if pathogenic bacteria on this scale are discovered. Membranes with 0.1 um nominal pores are used to clear mycoplasma, for example.

  • by FlyingBishop ( 1293238 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @05:53PM (#28354243)

    FWIW, 120,000 years is not that long ago from a biological perspective. Some pathogens can pass from pigs, rabbits, or other mammals to humans... it's not like mammals didn't exist 120 millenia years ago.

    Really? I would say it's an eternity. The Flu changes sufficiently to render itself impervious to our vaccines on a monthly and in some cases daily basis. Multiply that by 120,000 years, and I think we would have seen this bacteria before if it had any staying power as a mammalian pathogen.

  • Re:Welcome! (Score:2, Informative)

    by MeatBag PussRocket ( 1475317 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @06:48PM (#28354823)

    Microbes are found in almost every habitat present in nature. Even in hostile environments such as the poles, deserts, geysers, rocks, and the deep sea and have been known to survive for a prolonged time in a vacuum, and can be highly resistant to radiation, which may even allow them to survive in space. [] [wikipedia]
    it is very likely that even though we ingest huge ammounts of disgusting fast food this would not make your body an environment hostile enough to kill any given microbe. perhaps parts of your immune system or bodily produced acids may kill such a thing but certainly no gaurntee

  • by Arthur Grumbine ( 1086397 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @07:30PM (#28355299) Journal
    A couple orders of magnitude too young to claim that crown, according to this site []
  • Re:Welcome! (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @09:02PM (#28356203) Homepage

    > I hope you are right, because we have no exposure to this one, and no immunity.

    The immune system does not rely exclusively on previous exposure. Your body has many different defenses against bacteria.

    Disease-causing bacteria have evolved to survive in the extremely hostile environment inside living animals.

  • Re:Welcome! (Score:5, Informative)

    by ignavus ( 213578 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:55PM (#28357111)

    Its a bacteria. What viruses live inside it?

    It's a bacterium. If there are two or more, then they are bacteria.

    If we are to be killed by resurrected ancient bacteria, at least let us be grammatically correct when we die!

  • Re:Welcome! (Score:3, Informative)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:53PM (#28357469) Journal
    "Microbes are found in almost every habitat present in nature."

    The bacteria found in a human body outnumber the cells, however they only weigh a few kg's in total. Many of these bacteria live in a symbiotic relationship with our cells, we would die without them. Citation []

FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: A giant panda bear is really a member of the racoon family.