Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

LSU professor looks for life in and under antarctic ice

04.09.2007
If confirmed, "immortal cells" could prove potential for life on Mars and Europa, one of Jupiter's moons

Antarctica is home to the largest body of ice on Earth. Prior to approximately 10 years ago, no one thought that life could exist beneath the Antarctic ice sheets, which can be more than two miles thick in places, because conditions were believed to be too extreme. However, Brent Christner, assistant professor of biological sciences at LSU, has spent a great deal of time in one of the world’s most hostile environments conducting research that proves otherwise.

Christner’s discoveries of viable microbes in ancient ice cores and subglacial environments coupled with the realization that large quantities of liquid water exist beneath the Antarctic ice sheet have changed the way biologists view life in Antarctica.

“More than 150 lakes have been discovered underneath nearly two-and-a-half miles of ice in Antactica,” said Christner, “and most of these bodies of water have likely been covered by ice for at least 15 million years. The environmental conditions in the deep cold biosphere are unlike anything on the Earth’s surface and this represents one of the most extreme habitats for life on the planet.”

... more about:
»Antarctic »Antarctica »Christner »Frozen »LSU »ice sheet »microbes

A timeframe of up to one million years is required for microbes in the atmosphere to be transported through the ice sheet and enter an Antarctic subglacial lake. Even though cells are preserved in the ice, the question of how the DNA of these organisms remains unscathed over such long periods of apparent metabolic inactivity still remains.

According to Christner, there are two possible explanations of how these microbes could survive frozen for millenia. Firstly, the microbes may be dormant in the ice and possess “very effective repair mechanisms that are initiated when the cells are introduced to a growth situation,” he said. Given enough time, dormant cells – without active DNA repair mechanisms – would eventually incur a lethal level of radiation-induced damage from natural background sources in the ice.

Alternatively, Christner suggests that the microbes may stay metabolically active while entrapped in the ice, giving them the ability to repair damage as it occurs. “If this is the case, these microbes may be essentially immortal when frozen – that is, if a continuous energy supply was available,” he said.

Christner’s current laboratory research has shown that glacier microbes are capable of metabolic activity when frozen down to -20 degrees Celcius. “Our experiments have revealed the potential for microbes to metabolize under frozen conditions, but we still lack the ‘smoking gun’ which proves this occurs in nature. We are now taking what we learned in the lab at LSU and using it to design experiments that address this question in real Antarctic ice samples,” he said.

In collaboration with research colleagues from Montana State University, Christner and two members of his laboratory will deploy to Antarctica in October 2007. Shawn Doyle, LSU senior and microbiology major, will accompany Christner, staying through January 2008. “I interviewed students based on their academic record and experiences,” said Christner. “We’re looking for more than a lab rat, because, as you might imagine, Antarctica presents various challenges for doing science.” He is currently looking for a Ph.D. student to join the research team and conduct field work during the 2008-09 Antarctic season.

“The implication of our research is that the large ice sheets of Antarctica, which make up 70 percent of the planet’s fresh water reserves, may represent active biomes, substantially expanding the known boundaries for life on Earth,” said Christner. “Terrestrial glacier environments provide analogues to address questions relevant to the search for past or present microbial life in extraterrestrial ice on planets and moons in our solar system. Based on what we now know about the tenacity of life in Earth’s deep cold biosphere, microbial life surviving and persisting in ice on Mars or Europa is not that much of a stretch.”

Brent Christner | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lsu.edu

Further reports about: Antarctic Antarctica Christner Frozen LSU ice sheet microbes

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Life on the edge prepares plants for climate change
18.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie

nachricht Lipid nanodiscs stabilize misfolding protein intermediates red-handed
18.12.2017 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Error-free into the Quantum Computer Age

A study carried out by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Physical Review X shows that ion-trap technologies available today are suitable for building large-scale quantum computers. The scientists introduce trapped-ion quantum error correction protocols that detect and correct processing errors.

In order to reach their full potential, today’s quantum computer prototypes have to meet specific criteria: First, they have to be made bigger, which means...

Im Focus: Search for planets with Carmenes successful

German and Spanish researchers plan, build and use modern spectrograph

Since 2016, German and Spanish researchers, among them scientists from the University of Göttingen, have been hunting for exoplanets with the “Carmenes”...

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Single-photon detector can count to 4

18.12.2017 | Information Technology

Quantum memory with record-breaking capacity based on laser-cooled atoms

18.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How much soil goes down the drain -- New data on soil lost due to water

18.12.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>