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Scientists discover bacteria from Arctic permafrost can withstand Mars-like environment

Russian researchers from Ural Federal University (UrFU) have discovered that some bacteria from ancient Arctic permafrost can survive even up to 20 million years in an inactive state under conditions similar to those on Mars. The study of microorganisms was carried out during a joint project dubbed «Noah's Ark».
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«This study is of extremely great value for science, since it allows us to approach the understanding of the survival limits of microorganisms placed in natural substrates under extreme conditions. The scientists from UrFU took part in the molecular-biological analysis of samples to find out the structure of microbial communities,» commented Sergey Bulat, senior laboratory research assistant at the Extra Terra Consortium from the Physics and Technology Institute of UrFU.

According to the scientists, the study produced new insights into the ancient permafrost, which has not thawed for about two million years.

The researchers modeled conditions of amplified radiation background accompanied by low temperatures resembling those on the surface of Mars and studied the durability of microorganisms in these conditions. Up to now, it has not been clarified what the limits of microorganisms' durability towards the impact of such extreme factors are. It turned out that some bacteria inhabiting the ancient Arctic permafrost could also exist up to 20 million years in an inactive state under conditions close to those found on Mars.

The results obtained are essential for planning astrobiological space expeditions where objects and regions under investigation, as well as methods of discovering traces of life, should be carefully picked. Data like this, in general, will broaden our knowledge of the durability of earthly life forms.

Noah’s Ark is a large-scale project to create the first ever mega-storage of biological materials, and by studying it can provide a clue to understanding the mechanisms of rare diseases and unlock the secrets of evolution.

The research was conducted by the scientists from Moscow State University in close collaboration with colleagues from the Ural Federal University, the Russian Space Research Institute, the Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, the B.P. Konstantinov St. Petersburg Institute for Nuclear Physics, and the Kurchatov Institute. The results of the study were published in the journal Extremophiles.

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