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 New yeast species discovered in Braunschweig, Germany
13.12.2019 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

nachricht Saliva test shows promise for earlier and easier detection of mouth and throat cancer
13.12.2019 | Elsevier

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Virus multiplication in 3D

Vaccinia viruses serve as a vaccine against human smallpox and as the basis of new cancer therapies. Two studies now provide fascinating insights into their unusual propagation strategy at the atomic level.

For viruses to multiply, they usually need the support of the cells they infect. In many cases, only in their host’s nucleus can they find the machines,...

Im Focus: Cheers! Maxwell's electromagnetism extended to smaller scales

More than one hundred and fifty years have passed since the publication of James Clerk Maxwell's "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field" (1865). What would our lives be without this publication?

It is difficult to imagine, as this treatise revolutionized our fundamental understanding of electric fields, magnetic fields, and light. The twenty original...

Im Focus: Highly charged ion paves the way towards new physics

In a joint experimental and theoretical work performed at the Heidelberg Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, an international team of physicists detected for the first time an orbital crossing in the highly charged ion Pr⁹⁺. Optical spectra were recorded employing an electron beam ion trap and analysed with the aid of atomic structure calculations. A proposed nHz-wide transition has been identified and its energy was determined with high precision. Theory predicts a very high sensitivity to new physics and extremely low susceptibility to external perturbations for this “clock line” making it a unique candidate for proposed precision studies.

Laser spectroscopy of neutral atoms and singly charged ions has reached astonishing precision by merit of a chain of technological advances during the past...

Im Focus: Ultrafast stimulated emission microscopy of single nanocrystals in Science

The ability to investigate the dynamics of single particle at the nano-scale and femtosecond level remained an unfathomed dream for years. It was not until the dawn of the 21st century that nanotechnology and femtoscience gradually merged together and the first ultrafast microscopy of individual quantum dots (QDs) and molecules was accomplished.

Ultrafast microscopy studies entirely rely on detecting nanoparticles or single molecules with luminescence techniques, which require efficient emitters to...

Im Focus: How to induce magnetism in graphene

Graphene, a two-dimensional structure made of carbon, is a material with excellent mechanical, electronic and optical properties. However, it did not seem suitable for magnetic applications. Together with international partners, Empa researchers have now succeeded in synthesizing a unique nanographene predicted in the 1970s, which conclusively demonstrates that carbon in very specific forms has magnetic properties that could permit future spintronic applications. The results have just been published in the renowned journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Depending on the shape and orientation of their edges, graphene nanostructures (also known as nanographenes) can have very different properties – for example,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

The Future of Work

03.12.2019 | Event News

First International Conference on Agrophotovoltaics in August 2020

15.11.2019 | Event News

Laser Symposium on Electromobility in Aachen: trends for the mobility revolution

15.11.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supporting structures of wind turbines contribute to wind farm blockage effect

13.12.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Chinese team makes nanoscopy breakthrough

13.12.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Tiny quantum sensors watch materials transform under pressure

13.12.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>