Navigation Links
LSU professor looks for life in and under antarctic ice
Date:8/31/2007

BATON ROUGE 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 worlds most hostile environments conducting research that proves otherwise.

Christners 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 Earths surface and this represents one of the most extreme habitats for life on the planet.

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.

Christners 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. Were 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 planets 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 Earths deep cold biosphere, microbial life surviving and persisting in ice on Mars or Europa is not that much of a stretch.


'/>"/>
Contact: Brent Christner
xner@lsu.edu
225-578-1734
Louisiana State University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Great White shark evolution debate involves WSU Lake Campus geology professor
2. K-State professors discover enzyme responsible for creation of a beetles hard shell
3. Pitt professors theory of evolution gets boost from cell research
4. DNA conclusive yet still controversial, Carnegie Mellon professor says
5. Professors to develop hand-held pathogen testing device
6. LSU professor discovers new species
7. Looks matter to female barn swallows
8. Worlds pledge to halve hunger by 2015 looks like empty promise
9. Bioartificial kidney under study at MCG
10. UCSB scientists probe sea floor venting to gain understanding of early life on Earth
11. Zebrafish may hold key to understanding human nerve cell development
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/14/2016)... TEL AVIV, Israel , April 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... in Behavioral Authentication and Malware Detection, today announced the ... has already assumed the new role. Goldwerger,s ... for BioCatch, on the heels of the deployment of ... In addition, BioCatch,s behavioral biometric technology, which discerns unique ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... , March 31, 2016  Genomics firm Nabsys has ... CEO, Barrett Bready , M.D., who returned to ... the original technical leadership team, including Chief Technology Officer, ... Product Development, Steve Nurnberg and Vice President of Software ... the company. Dr. Bready served as CEO ...
(Date:3/22/2016)... India , March 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... market research report "Electronic Sensors Market for Consumer ... Proximity, & Others), Application (Communication & IT, ... Geography - Global Forecast to 2022", published ... industry is expected to reach USD 26.76 ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Newly created 4Sight Medical Solutions ... healthcare market. The company's primary focus is on new product introductions, to include ... are necessary to help companies efficiently bring their products to market. , The ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... , June 27, 2016  Liquid Biotech ... the funding of a Sponsored Research Agreement with ... tumor cells (CTCs) from cancer patients.  The funding ... CTC levels correlate with clinical outcomes in cancer ... data will then be employed to support the ...
(Date:6/24/2016)...  Regular discussions on a range of subjects including policies, ... entities said Poloz. Speaking at a lecture to ... he pointed to the country,s inflation target, which is set ... "In certain areas there needs ... economic goals, why not sit down and address strategy together?" ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Brooklyn, NY (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... 15mm, machines such as the Cary 5000 and the 6000i models are higher end ... height is the height of the spectrophotometer’s light beam from the bottom of the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: