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NASA Announcement LIVE: New Life Form Discovered (VIDEO)

The Huffington Post    
First Posted: 12/02/10 02:06 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:15 PM ET

The NASA announcement is underway, and you can watch it and follow along with our live updates below. You can also watch the press conference live at NASA TV.

NASA's press conference today is scheduled for 2 p.m. and is related to a major finding in their research in the field of astrobiology. Speculation has reached a fever pitch after the agency said the finding "will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life."

The news has leaked now, and while the discovery is not extraterrestrial life, NASA has indeed uncovered an entirely new life form on our planet that "doesn't share the biological building blocks of anything currently living" on Earth, Gizmodo reports.

live blog

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2:57 PM ET Press Conference Has Ended

NASA concludes the press conference by saying future discoveries could be on the horizon: "Science never sleeps."

2:55 PM ET Experiment Conducted In A Lab

NASA explains how the experiment was conducted:

"The newly discovered microbe, strain GFAJ-1, is a member of a common group of bacteria, the Gammaproteobacteria. In the laboratory, the researchers successfully grew microbes from the lake on a diet that was very lean on phosphorus, but included generous helpings of arsenic. When researchers removed the phosphorus and replaced it with arsenic the microbes continued to grow. Subsequent analyses indicated that the arsenic was being used to produce the building blocks of new GFAJ-1 cells."

2:43 PM ET Practical Application Of The Organism

Scientists say that one practical application is using this organism to treat toxic waste dumps that are filled with arsenic. There are many others, including in bio-energy where it is useful to have a phosphorus-free environment.

2:38 PM ET This Had Been Theorized Before

One of the scientists speaking at the conference, Felisa Wolfe-Simon, had written a paper "Did Nature also choose arsenic?" earlier this year wondering if that element could also be a foundation for life:

We hypothesize that ancient biochemical systems, analogous to but distinct from those known today, could have utilized arsenate in the equivalent biological role as phosphate.

Organisms utilizing such 'weird life' biochemical pathways may have supported a 'shadow biosphere' at the time of the origin and early evolution of life on Earth or on other planets.

Such organisms may even persist on Earth today, undetected, in unusual niches.

Jason Kottke gives a rundown of other scientists at the news conference and their expertise.

2:36 PM ET More Ideas To Test

Wolfe-Simon: "Lot of ideas I'd like to test about finding new forms of life. I think that we can learn a lot [on Earth] as well as life in any planetary context. It's all very important."

2:33 PM ET Explanation Of Discovery

Science Magazine, in which Wolfe-Simon and colleagues' article "A Bacterium That Can

Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorous" will appear, has released this YouTube video.

WATCH:

2:28 PM ET 'Deadly Arsenic Breathes Life'

Arizona State University is proudly sharing its role in the discovery with this headline: "Astrobiologists: Deadly arsenic breathes life into organisms."

2:18 PM ET On Why This Is Exciting

Professor James Elser on the discovery (paraphrased): Phosphorus only comes from a few places on Earth that are rapidly being completed. The distribution of which is very limited. Phosphorus might become very scarce due to the demand for fertilizer, which is why it's so exciting that we can possibly use organisms that are able to grow without phosphorus to support the many of the essential functions that phosphorus is a part of.

2:11 PM ET Bioscientist: Discovery Is 'Profound'

The NASA press conference has started.

The lead scientist behind the research Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon says, "This microbe is doing something different than what we know."

She adds, "We've cracked open the door for what's possible for life elsewhere in the universe. and that's profound to understand how life is formed and where life is going."

2:03 PM ET What The Bacteria Looks Like

Here's a picture of the bacteria:

-Posted by Gizmodo

1:58 PM ET Home Of New Life Form

Here's a Flickr slideshow of Mono Lake, California, where this bacteria lives.

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