The Nanobacteria Riddle
all of the excitement over the 1996 announcement that the fossil remains of tiny life-forms were found on a meteorite found
in arctic ice the traced back to Mars? The so-called life forms were so small it took a powerful electron microscope to see
this discovery, researchers have discovered that similar minute-sized “nanoparticles” exist everywhere on Earth
and possibly everywhere in the universe. It was thought by some that if these were, indeed, life forms, they represented proof
that the building blocks of life exist everywhere. They became known as nanobacteria.
researchers studied this new nanoparticle they began to debate whether they were looking at a real living organism or something
calcified particles were called nanobacteria because they look like typical bacteria, resemble cells undergoing division,
grow in culture and are so hardy they can withstand bombardments of gamma radiation. So why would anybody question whether
they are a living organism?
Martel J. Young, of Chang Gung University’s Department of Biochemistry and Cellular Molecular Biology, published an
article in Science News in which he argued against nanobacteria as living organisms. Young’s primary argument, as is
most other researchers who share his views, is that nanobacteria is too small to support DNA. And DNA, these scientists say,
is the primary criteria for life.
argue that the minimal cellular size of life on Earth must be larger than 200 mm in diameter to contain the cellular machinery
based on DNA replication. The nanobacteria appear as small as 80 mm.
these scientists argue that even though nanobacteria appear alive, they are really “aberrant crystallizations of minerals
and organic molecules.”
like the strange prion, another molecular particle associated with Mad Cow Disease, these researchers believe these nanopartiles
are not only present in the human body, but they also may be linked to protection or attacks on human health.
find it strange that contemporary science is so caught up in its own definitions of requirements for life that it would dismiss
the fact that nanobacteria appear to reproduce and grow like regular sized bacteria in a Petri dish, yet are dismissed as
a life form because it is too tiny to contain a DNA coil. While it is true at all known life forms on Earth contain DNA, who
wrote the rule at all life must conform to DNA?
crystalline nature of nanobacteria suggests that they are related to Earth’s rock crystals. And these strange crystals
also grow and reproduce. Yet scientists refuse to consider them living organisms because they look and act like rocks.
you use those same electron microscopes to look even deeper beyond the world of the nanoparticles and into the very heart
of the atom, we find that all atoms are filled with light and energy. They are all like this, whether they are found in living
tissue or stone.
believe it is wrong to determine something is not a life form because of its size, or because it fails to behave like the
established life forms we are familiar with. Redefining life may be very important if and when we begin to probe other planets
in the universe or beyond.