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April 28, 2014

Research on life at high temperatures in Yellowstone (Image 4)

Life at near boiling. Pictured here is the outflow channel of the Lower Geyser Basin at Yellowstone National Park, where filaments of bacteria thrive at temperatures just below boiling. These filaments are easily visible to the naked eye and have been the subject of much research over the years.

Research by the Lucigen Corporation has shown that the composition of life suspended in the water column is quite different and more diverse than that in the filaments. This suggests the cells and viruses in the water column originate not in the pools but in the vents that feed hot water into the pools. Early life on Earth probably evolved at high temperatures under chemical conditions similar to those seen in hot spring vents. Viruses, in particular, appear to have had a key role in the very early evolution of basic biochemical processes of cells like DNA replication and gene expression. For these reasons, research into viruses at high temperatures may be especially useful in understanding the origin of life.

This research was initiated through NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I and II awards (DMI-0109756, DMI-0215988) to Lucigen (Principle Investigator Thomas Schoenfeld). Ongoing work on the project is currently supported by an additional grant (IIP 08-39404), awarded to Lucigen (Schoenfeld). (Date of Image: 2005-2007) [Image 4 of 6 related images. See Image 5.]

Credit: David Mead, Lucigen Corporation

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