Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Microorganism isolated in space

17.12.2002


How far up into the sky does the biosphere extend? Do microorganisms exist at heights of 40 km and in what quantity? To answer these questions several research institutes in India collaborated on a path-breaking project to send balloon-borne sterile "cryosamplers" into the stratosphere. The programme was led by cosmologist Professor Jayant Narlikar, Director of the Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune, with scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Studies contributing their various expertise.



Large volumes of air from the stratosphere at heights ranging from 20 to 41km were collected on 21 January 2001. The programme of analysis of samples in the UK was organised by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff University, co-proponent with the late Sir Fred Hoyle of the modern theory of panspermia. This theory states that the Earth was seeded in the past, and is still being seeded, with microorganisms from comets.

Last year a team of biologists at Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences reported evidence of viable bacteria in air samples at 41km in such quantity that implied a world-wide settling rate of one tonne of bacterial material per day. Although living bacteria were seen they could not be grown in the laboratory. Dr Milton Wainwright of Sheffield University’s Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, was asked to apply his skills to growing the organisms. Dr Wainwright isolated a fungus and two bacteria from one of the space derived samples collected at 41km. The presence of bacteria in these samples was then independently confirmed. These results are published in this month’s issue of a prestigious microbiology journal FEMS Letters (Wainwright et al, 2002), published by Elsevier. The isolated organisms are very similar to known terrestrial varieties. There are however notable differences in their detailed properties, possibly pointing to a different origin. Furthermore, it should be stressed that these microorganisms are not common laboratory contaminants.


Dr Wainwright says, however, "Contamination is always a possibility in such studies but the "internal logic" of the findings points strongly to the organisms being isolated in space, at a height of 41km. Of course the results would have been more readily accepted and lauded by critics had we isolated novel organisms, or ones with NASA written on them! However, we can only report what we have found in good faith".

The new work of Wainwright et al is consistent with the ideas of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe that in fact predict the continuing input onto the Earth of "modern" organisms. In recent years and months there has been a growing body of evidence that can be interpreted as support for the theory of panspermia - e.g. the space survival attributes and general space hardiness of bacteria.

Chandra Wickramasinghe | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Opening the cavity floodgates
23.01.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Incentive to Move
23.01.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Optical Nanoscope Allows Imaging of Quantum Dots

Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers reveal how microbes cope in phosphorus-deficient tropical soil

23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Opening the cavity floodgates

23.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Siberian scientists suggested a new method for synthesizing a promising magnetic material

23.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>