Stem cell work earns Nobel prize for medicine October 8, 2012
Off the Wire: Cat gene accounts for stripes or blotches September 20, 2012
Genome of lowly oyster has a lot to reveal September 19, 2012
DNA offers sharper image of ancient humans August 30, 2012
Autopsy: Modern Native American woman was scalped August 30, 2012
Older fathers linked to autism, schizophrenia August 22, 2012
Fish getting skin cancer from UV radiation, scientists say August 2, 2012
23andMe seeks FDA approval for personal DNA test July 30, 2012
Early Africans mated with mystery species of humans July 26, 2012
“There will be life forms there,” Venter said, with his usual confidence, at a Wired Health conference this week in New York.
If he can build a machine to find it, the next steps would be to decode its DNA, beam it back to Earth, put those genetic instructions into a cell and then boot up a Martian life form in a biosecure lab.
It may sound far-fetched, but assuming that there is DNA to be found on the Red Planet — a big assumption, to be sure — the notion of equipping a future Mars rover to sequence the DNA isn’t so crazy.
Venter has already sent his yacht around the globe to scoop up seawater and sequence whatever DNA it found in marine microbes. He has also been working on technology to create small genomes from scratch and insert them into living cells to bring these organisms to life. The difference now is that all of this technology would be applied to Mars.
It’s highly unlikely that any DNA-based life forms could survive on the Martian surface, so Venter’s “biological teleporter” (as he dubbed it) would dig under the surface for samples to sequence. If they find anything, “it would take only 4.3 minutes to get the Martians back to Earth,” he said. “Now we can rebuild the Martians in a P4 spacesuit lab.”
Venter isn’t the only one looking for Martian DNA. According to a report in the MIT Technology Review, so is Jonathan Rothberg, founder of the genome sequencing company Ion Torrent.
Rothberg is working with NASA-funded scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard to adapt his company’s Personal Genome Machine for use on Mars, the report says. It’s part of a NASA astrobiology project known as the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes, or SETG.
MIT research scientist Christopher Carr is part of a group that’s “building a miniature RNA/DNA sequencer to search for life beyond Earth,” according to his website. “Top places to look include Mars, Enceladus (a moon of Saturn), and Europa (a moon of Jupiter).”
Carr told Tech Review that one of the biggest challenges is shrinking Ion Torrent’s 30-kilogram machine down to a mere 3 kg — light enough to fit on a Mars rover.
That’s just one of the hurdles. NASA has no firm plans for a rover to succeed Curiosity, the lab-on-wheels that reached the Red Planet in August. Even if a new rover gets the green light, there’s no guarantee that a gene sequencer would get one of the coveted spots for research instruments.
More Nation & World Headlines
French hunt 2nd fugitive, launch new airstrikes on IS IS militants dig in, anticipating assault on de facto capital 12:11 p.m. Attacks may end free pass for lack of knowledge by Trump, Carson Putin orders Russian warship to cooperate with France Ryan seeks to halt Syrian refugees as White House pushes back 1:47 p.m. Russia confirms Sinai plane crash was the work of terrorists 1:48 p.m. Official: Minneapolis police shooting vids won’t be released 1:46 p.m. Attorney general questions plans for moving Guantanamo prisoners to US 1:47 p.m.
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.