NASA’s arsenic biology discovery slammed


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The uncertainty of science! A microbiologist is slamming last week’s NASA discovery that claimed a microbe had incorporated arsenic instead of phosphorus as part of its DNA. Key quote:

In an interview Monday, Redfield said the methods used by the researchers were so crude that any arsenic they detected was likely from contamination. There is no indication that the researchers purified the DNA to remove arsenic that might have been sticking to the outside of the DNA or the gel the DNA was embedded in, she added. Normally, purifying the DNA is a standard step, Redfield said: “It’s a kit, it costs $2, it takes 10 minutes.” She also questioned why the researchers analyzed the DNA while it was still in the gel, making the results more difficult to interpret: “No molecular biologist would ever do that.”

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4 comments

  • It’s amazing that everyone wants to be an armchair quarterback and no-one seems to be actually *publishing*.. except Wolfe-Simon and her team that is.

  • Chris L.

    Trent,
    While I agree that it is way too early to be making pronouncements either way on this find, it is the nature of science that Wolfe-Simon’s work be critically examined. If her work holds up, those critics will be choking on their own words. If her work doesn’t, another explanation for what she observed will have to be found, and tested.

  • It’s the nature of the work that it be critically examined *by people actually doing experiments*.. and publishing their work in a reputable journal. Armchair bloggers can go spin. When good science can be buried by “hype”, “anti-hype” and vitriol then we’ve truly entered a new dark age.

  • Chris L.

    Trent,
    Point well taken. As I said, it really is too soon for anyone to be passing judgment on this.

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