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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What could possibly go wrong with reviving a bacterium 120,000 years old and never seen before?

"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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