Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

World's Oldest Bacteria Found Living In Permafrost

Date:
August 28, 2007
Source:
University of Copenhagen
Summary:
A research team has for the first time ever discovered DNA from living bacteria that are more than half a million years old. Never before has traces of still living organisms that old been found. The exceptional discovery can lead to a better understanding of the aging of cells and might even cast light on the question of life on Mars. All cells decompose with time. But some cells are better than others to postpone the decomposing and thus delay aging and eventually death. And there are even organisms that are capable of regenerate and thereby repair damaged cells. These cells -- their DNA -- are very interesting to the understanding of the process of how cells break down and age.

Professor Eske Willerslev collecting soil samples in the permafrost in the Yukon, Canada. Researchers found half million year old bacteria in some of the samples collected.
Credit: Duane Froese

A research team has for the first time ever discovered DNA from living bacteria that are more than half a million years old. Never before has traces of still living organisms that old been found.

The exceptional discovery can lead to a better understanding of the aging of cells and might even cast light on the question of life on Mars. The discovery was made by Professor Eske Willerslev from the University of Copenhagen and his international research team.

All cells decompose with time. But some cells are better than others to postpone the decomposing and thus delay aging and eventually death. And there are even organisms that are capable of regenerate and thereby repair damaged cells. These cells -- their DNA -- are very interesting to the understanding of the process of how cells break down and age.

The research team, which consists of experts in, among other things, DNA traces in sediments and organisms, have found ancient bacteria that still contains active and living DNA. So far, it is the oldest finding of organisms containing active DNA and thus life on this earth. The discovery was made after excavations of layers of permafrost in the north-western Canada, the north-eastern Siberia and Antarctica.

The project is about examining how bacteria can live after having been frozen down for millions of years. Other researchers has tried to uncover the life of the past and the following evolutionary development by focusing on cells that are in a state of dead-like lethargy. "We, on the other hand, have found a method that makes is possible to extract and isolate DNA traces from cells that are still active. It gives a more precise picture of the past life and the evolution towards the present because we are dealing with cells that still have a metabolistic function -- unlike "dead" cells where that function has ceased," says Eske Wilerslev.

After the fieldwork and the isolation of the DNA, the researchers compared the DNA to DNA from a worldwide gene-bank in the US to identify the ancient material. Much in the same way the police compares fingerprints from a crime, the researchers were able to place the DNA more precisely and to place it in a context.

There is a very long way, of course, from our basic research towards understanding why some cells can become that old. But it is interesting in this context to look at how cells break down and are restored and thus are kept over a very long period. The researchers' methods and results can be used to determine if there was ever life on Mars the way we perceive life on earth.

And then there is the grand perspective in relation to Darwin's evolution theory. It predicts that life never returns to the same genetic level. "But our findings allows us to post the question: are we dealing with a circular evolution where development, so to speak, bites its own tail if and when ancient DNA are mixed with new?" says Eske Willerslev.

The discovery is being published in the current issue of PNAS (Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Copenhagen. The original article was written by Professor Eske Willerslev. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Copenhagen. "World's Oldest Bacteria Found Living In Permafrost." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070827174320.htm>.
University of Copenhagen. (2007, August 28). World's Oldest Bacteria Found Living In Permafrost. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070827174320.htm
University of Copenhagen. "World's Oldest Bacteria Found Living In Permafrost." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070827174320.htm (accessed April 25, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A disease that has killed more than six million cave-dwelling bats in the United States is on the move and wildlife biologists are worried. White Nose Syndrome, discovered in New York in 2006, has now spread to 25 states. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) Scientists say for the extremely elderly, their stem cells might reach a state of exhaustion. This could limit one's life span. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Kangaroo Rescued from Swimming Pool

Raw: Kangaroo Rescued from Swimming Pool

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A kangaroo was saved from drowning in a backyard suburban swimming pool in Australia's Victoria state on Thursday. Australian broadcaster Channel 7 showed footage of the kangaroo struggling to get out of the pool. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Marijuana Use Lead To Serious Heart Problems?

Could Marijuana Use Lead To Serious Heart Problems?

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) A new study says marijuana use could lead to serious heart-related complications. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins