During a special press conference Thursday, NASA astrobiologists announced that a team of researchers have uncovered microbes able to subsist on arsenic, which alters the longtime basic formula for life.
Scraped from the bottom of Mono Lake in California and then grown inside a laboratory, the bacteria uses the poisonous substance arsenic as a replacement for phosphorus, the element previously considered an essential backbone for all life.
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Though this discovery doesn’t not confirm the presence of extraterrestrial life elsewhere in the universe, it does prove the possibility of life forms that can thrive on elements that are unknown or, atypical to life on Earth. “It is building itself out of arsenic,” said geo-microbiologist Felisa Wolfe-Simon at NASA’s Astrobiology Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey, who led researchers from eight federal and university laboratories conducting the experiment. “All life we know is the same biochemically, and this is a little different. It is suggesting there is another way to be alive.” (Head over to TIME.com for more details)