Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Reviving Ancient Microbes

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Reviving Ancient Microbes

Article excerpt

The DNA of ancient microorganisms, long frozen in glaciers, may return to life as the glaciers melt, according to scientists at Rutgers University. The finding is significant because scientists did not know until now whether such ancient, frozen organisms and their DNA could be revived at all or for how long cells are viable after they have been frozen, says Kay Bidle, assistant professor of marine and coastal sciences at Rutgers.

Bidle's research team melted five samples of ice taken from two valleys in the Transantarctic Mountains to find the microorganisms trapped inside. The samples ranged in age from 100 thousand to 8 million years old. The researchers wanted to find out how long cells could remain viable and how intact their DNA was in the youngest and oldest ice. The researchers chose Antarctic glaciers for their research because the polar regions are subject to more cosmic radiation than the rest of the planet and contain the oldest ice on the planet.

"First, we asked, do we detect microorganisms at all?" Bidle says. "And we did, more in the young ice than in the old. We tried to grow them in media, and the young stuff grew really fast. We recovered them [the microorganisms] easily; we could plate them and isolate colonies. They doubled every couple of days. …

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