A new experiment has shown that DNA is stable enough to remain intact after a journey in space. Pieces of plasmid DNA were sent onto a rocket in space which thereafter returned to the Earth. It was then discovered that the not only did the DNA stay in the application spots, but it was also able to transmit the information to bacteria.
The DNA has proved to be possessing a certain out-of-this-world quality. A new study has shown that it can be made to travel through space and get back into our earthly atmosphere, all the while still retaining its inheritance power: trips from space and back does not prevent DNA from passing on genetic information.
The surprising results were obtained from an experiment on the TEXUS-49 research rocket mission. With the help of pipettes, double-stranded plasmid DNA molecules were applied onto the outer shell of the payload section of a rocket. The vehicle was then flown into space and back to our planet again. After its arrival back to the Earth, it was found that the DNA molecules were still on the spots where they had been applied. Furthermore, the DNA was also able to pass on the genetic information to bacteria and other tissues.
“This study provides experimental evidence that the DNA’s genetic information is essentially capable of surviving the extreme conditions of space and the re-entry into Earth’s dense atmosphere,” says study head Professor Oliver Ullrich from the University of Zurich’s Institute of Anatomy.
The researchers themselves were astonished at such discoveries. They commented on the nature of the results saying: “We were completely surprised to find so much intact and functionally active DNA.”
If DNA can remain ‘alive’ in space and back to the Earth, it means that it is a pretty solid material, able to resist a cocktail of extreme conditions. As a matter of fact, scientists have, in the past, proposed that DNA from outer space might have reached us while we remain oblivious of it. DNA materials might be preserved in dust and meteorites that hit our planet’s surface.
The reverse might also be true. Spaceships from the Earth could also be carrying DNA to their landing sites on other heavenly bodies. This has to be taken into consideration when looking for extraterrestrial life.