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"The definition of life has just expanded."
WASHINGTON (The Blaze/AP) — Scientists have discovered a strange bacteria that can use arsenic as one of its nutrients, a discovery some speculate is the big announcement NASA is set to unveil at 2 p.m. E.T.*
The finding widens the possibilities for finding different forms of life here on Earth and possibly on other planets or moons. The unusual bacteria was found in a lake in California.
Six major elements have long been considered essential for life — carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur.
But the researchers found that the bacteria is able to continue to grow after substituting arsenic for phosphorous.
Ariel Anbar, a co-author of the report, said "it makes you wonder what else is possible."
Earlier today, the Huffington Post published a story saying that the newly-discovered life form is NASA's bug announcement.
"The news has leaked now," HuffPo writes, "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."
*UPDATE from NASA:
NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.
Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.
"The definition of life has just expanded," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it."
This finding of an alternative biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth. The research is published in this week's edition of Science Express.
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