120,000-Year-Old Bacteria Awakened


The recently revived Herminiimonas glacei - image: The Society for General Microbiology

Forgetting the lessons of Jurrasic Park, scientists have "awaken" a strain of bacteria called Hermeniimonas glacei from a 120,000-year slumber trapped beneath a block of ice. What could go wrong?

The new bacteria species was found nearly 2 miles (3 km) beneath a Greenland glacier, where temperatures can dip well below freezing, pressure soars, and food and oxygen are scarce.

"We don't know what state they were in," said study team member Jean Brenchley of Pennsylvania State University. "They could've been dormant, or they could've been slowly metabolizing, but we don't know for sure."

Dormant would mean the bacteria were in a spore-like state in which there's not a lot of metabolism going on, so the bacteria wouldn't be reproducing much. It's possible the bacteria could have been slowly metabolizing and replicating. [...]

To coax the bacteria back to life, Brenchley, Jennifer Loveland-Curtze and their Penn State colleagues incubated the samples at 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) for seven months, followed by more than four months at 41 degrees F (5 degrees C).

The resulting colonies of the originally purple-brown bacteria, now named Herminiimonas glaciei, are alive and well. "We were able to recover it and get it to grow in our laboratory," Brenchley said. "It was viable."

Jeanna Bryner of LiveScience has the fascinating story: Link


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The typo in the first paragraph needs to be fixed.

The quoted word "awaken" would should read in the context "awoken". If the writer/editor for this news item took out the preceding words "scientists have" and reworked it, the present-tense form would work.

Interesting story but for the double take I did on the first sentence.

More to the point, science fiction seems closer than ever to science fact. I have no doubt that at some point in human history we will unleash either something very ancient or an escaped "hot zone" pathogen from a lab. It's statistically inevitable that we will goof up in some big way at some point because we are only human. What's unforgivable is that the very authorities who are charged with protecting the public health don't often factor in worst-case scenario "variables" when making decisions on how to handle these rare and dangerous microbes. Instead, we have boneheaded ideas about moving laboratories that are presently located on isolated islands to the mainland US where one mistake might decimate the entire country, if not continent, worth of livestock (hoof & mouth disease). It just goes to show that intelligence and "common sense" have nothing whatsoever to to with one another.

Arrogance may become our eventual undoing as a species, but until then stories like this are a fascinating read. Let's hope and pray they stay that way — interesting stories, no more, no less.
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Wasn't there a book by Michael Crichton about a couple of scientists who just happen to wake up a dormant ancient bacteria and ended up killing millions?

Well, it's been fun folks. *heads to bunker*
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Oh good. So now the race to see what dooms humanity will be a race between this, the super-collider, or the melting ice caps.

I'm still betting on the ice caps since the sun's expansion/orbits collapsing isn't on anyone's mind yet; "slow and steady" as always.
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