NASA want to build a robot for the direct search of extraterrestrial life

Until now, NASA has created tools designed to search for biosignals, which could only indicate the possibility of life but not life itself, no matter how primitive it is. In the framework of a new project at NASA want to create automated planetary robot that will mimic what biologists spend every day in terrestrial laboratories: to look in the microscope to visually determine the microbial life that lives in the samples, the official website space Agency.

The project is led by Melissa Floyd, a scientist from space flight Center NASA Goddard in Greenbelt (USA). She has created a 3D-printed prototype device FISHbot and promotes it as a tool to search for bacterial life on Mars and other Solar system objects.

“Life exists everywhere on Earth, even in places not suitable for human life. I constantly thought about it. So I had an idea: what if life on Mars could develop in the same way as on Earth? Mars in his past was definitely subjected to the same bombing of the “chemical soup” that Earth,” says Melissa Floyd.

The scientist adds that this is not just speculation. The idea has under itself a scientific basis. Nucleotides — the molecules that make up deoxyribonucleic acid and ribonucleic acid have been found in comets. These molecules, known as DNA and RNA store and transmit genetic information at the cellular level in all living organisms on Earth.

To search for life on another planet the robotic instrument Floyd would focus on the identification of bacteria and archaea. They are representatives of a large group of single-celled microorganisms that thrive in various conditions and are considered the first organisms to appear on Earth about 4 billion years ago. On the Ground in one gram of soil may contain about 40 million bacterial cells in a milliliter of fresh water contains on average up to one million such cells.

The concept, which, in its opinion, can be put into a separate robotic device or as multiple instruments of the Rover, based on a very popular method of chemical analysis — fluorescence in situ hybridization. Fluorescence in situ hybridization or FISH is intended for detection of RNA, and detection and positioning of specific DNA sequences on metaphase chromosomes or in interphase nuclei in situ (in place). These filamentary structures are present in the nucleus of most living cells and contain genetic information in the form of genes. FISH method is widely used in preimplantation, prenatal and postnatal genetic diagnosis, in the diagnosis of oncological diseases, in retrospective biological dosimetry.

When fluorescence in situ hybridization using DNA probes that bind to complementary targets in a sample. The composition of DNA probes is composed of nucleosides labeled with fluorophore (fragment of the molecule, giving it fluorescent properties). In direct labeling associated with the target DNA the probe can be observed with a fluorescent microscope immediately after hybridization.

“I’m trying to understand whether all this is done using robotic tools,” said Floyd, adding that it would be nice if the system could carry up to 10 probes to identify a wide range of unicellular organisms.

“Even if there are fragments vysokomanevrennyh genetic sequences that are found everywhere on Earth, FISH would be able to identify them”, — explains the expert.

The main difficulty, says the scientist, is to simplify and automate the process so that samples can be prepared in a separate substrate, to heat and to turn to more detailed review under a microscope that probably have to do a lot of time for deeper analysis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *