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Isro finds 3 bacteria species

Not found on Earth, These Are Highly Resistant To UV Rays

Isro has given India a fabulous biology break. Its balloon experiments to understand different layers of life have discovered three new species of bacteria not found on Earth and highly resistant to ultra-violet radiation in the upper stratosphere.

One of them has been named Janibacter hoylei after distinguishes astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, the second Bacillus isronensis recognizing Isro's contribution which led to its discovery and the third Bacillus aryabhata after India's celebrated ancient astronomer Aryabhata.

The experiment was conducted using a 26.7 million cubic ft balloon carrying a 459 kg payload soaked in 38 kg of liquid neon, flown from the National Balloon Facility in Hyderabad, operated by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR).

The payload consisted of a cryosampler containing 16 evacuated and sterilized stainless steel probes. Throughout the flight, the probes remained immersed in liquid neon to create a cryopump effect.

These cylinders, after collecting air samples from different heights ranging from 20 km to 41 km, were parachuted down and retrieved. These were analyzed by scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad as well as the National Centre for Cell Sciences (NCCS), Pune for independent examination, ensuring that both laboratories followed similar protocols to achieve homogeneity of procedure and interpretation.

In all, 12 bacterial and six fungal colonies were detected, nine of which, based on 16S RNA gene sequence, showed greater than 98% similarity with reported known species on earth. Three bacterial colonies-PVAS-1, B3 W22 and B8 W22-totally new species. They had significantly higher UV resistance compared to their nearest phylogenetic neighbours.

This was ISRO's second such experiment; the first one was in 2001. Even though the first experiment had yielded positive results, it was decided to repeat the experiment, exercising extra care to ensure it was totally free from any terrestrial contamination.

SOURCE: The Times of India Newspaper Dated: Wednesday, March 18, 2009.
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