Tag Archives: science

Glyphosate, Pesticides, Industrial Poisoning and Resulting Neurological Effects? — and Questions Un-Answered?


Introducing pesticides into agriculture saved countless lives by feeding many of the poorest of the poor. Bountiful harvests have been the hallmark of the late 20th century and part way into the 21st as well. However, there appears an unwanted, if not horrific, effect of pesticides upon human physiology and health.

The pesticides such as glyphosphate (RoundUp [TM] ) and organo-phosphate pesticides (insecticides) are strongly implicated in the physiological and neurological problems in new borns. The evidence strongly suggests that children born of farm workers and children exposed in urban settings (in close proximity to household pesticides) to lice and roach treatments suffer disproportionately in contrast to their more affluent peers.

While the ag-business may not subscribe to such data or conclusions, there may have been  reasons  for the skepticism. In the 1970s, glyphosphate was invented, and much data was generated on the toxicity of the chemical. What was known in that time period was the rapid degradation of the herbicide. It would rapidly degrade in sunlight and seemed to pose little if any harm (references at the end of the post). Thus, it seemed as if the ag- business had invented a miracle —a truly non-toxic herbicide.

That news was greeted by most as cause for celebration, since Agent Orange was a debacle of the Vietnam War (in the early-to-mid 1970s). Many an American Veteran returned from  Vietnam with mysterious symptoms that seemingly defied medical description. All too often, I heard from my uncles, who served during WWII and Korea–it made no sense that they had been exposed to quite a few industrial chemicals during their tours but showed no ill effects. Moreover, their newborn children seemingly escaped harm. — or did they?

A Case of Voodoo Science? –Oral History or Coincidence?

Although the data seems quite spurious and anecdotal, what needs to be investigated— the links between past exposures to generational ancestors and the present day alterations  to the human genome. WWII saw numerous countries turn their economies into war machines–industrial centers like SF-Oakland Bay Area and Detroit, Michigan turned much of their industrial waste back into the Pacific Ocean or the Great Lakes. Much of the industrial area roadways became breeding grounds for chemical sterility. Higher levels of Pb (lead), Cr (chromium), As (arsenic) and other elements are found on the freeways of inner urban areas. It does not take a rocket scientist to surmise — we poisoned our inner cities– but no one understood why aspects of crime, economics, and poor school performance became the hall-marks for their areas. While other factors make it plain that the areas were neglected due to indifference and lack of small business attractiveness–there were other (so-called) reasons.

What may need  to be answered is: how did past toxic chemical exposure (two to three generations prior) affect the whole human genome as we now know it? Is the question relevant or is it ‘fear-mongering’? 0r Is it Voodoo Science?

The Science Speaks!

What can be said for certain– “….  (glyphosate) use has increased approximately 100-fold since the first decade of its use in the 1970s.  … Initial risk assessments of glyphosate assumed a limited hazard to vertebrates because its stated herbicidal mechanism of action targeted a plant enzyme not present in vertebrates. … ”  –taken from:

National Institutes of Health  — Review article:  Concerns over use of glyphosate-based herbicides and risks associated with exposures: a consensus statement

Link between hazardous chemicals and neurological problems — Opens up to YouTube lecture from the University of California, Davis, MIND Institute

Industrial Chemicals and Autism Link — Epidemiological studies

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpubh.2016.00148/full    — Exposure studies

environmental study    Metabolism and Degradation of Glyphosate in Soil and Water (1976)

 

Pesticide Exposure and Effects on Estrogen Receptors — Biochemical study

Toxic Pesticides of the Late 20th Century — Opens up to Decodedscience.com article

 

Maler_der_Grabkammer_des_Sennudem_001

Early agriculture

By Deutsch: Maler der Grabkammer des Sennudem English: Painter of the burial chamber of Sennedjem [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

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Uneasy Reality of the Zika Virus


The Zika virus promises a new reality for the USA and ‘the rest of the world.’ The virus will be infecting more individuals in the coming months, and ‘the true tragedy’ becomes apparent for those not infected by the virus.

Many of us will do our best eliminate standing water and ‘dangerous hot spots.’

Otherwise, ‘some encouraging words’ come from the researchers–

 

Purported MECHANISTIC DETAILS of Zika’s Infection in humans and in animal models:

The word mechanism implies that researchers, doctors and most of the ‘informed community’ understands how the virus infects ‘new borns and adults.’ It is also called a ‘mode of action’ — in some circles.

The impaired neurogenesis (in the fetus) is the focus of research and the impaired growth of  ‘neural stem cells.’ The virus causes what is termed as apoptosis–a death of cellular material. The precise ‘chemical mechanism’ is unknown… if it were known, the scientific community would know the best approach for deterrence. The public is justifiably upset, skeptical, confused and frightened. However, research is a slow and a precise affair in which progress –is marked by ‘repeatable and accurate experimentation.’

The entry point for the virus can happen at multi-sites –and can happen before, during and after ‘egg fertilization.’ The placenta– a safe haven– is, in this case, susceptible. The plea to the public is–be safe and minimize potential exposure.

Treatment Options (Future)… Detection? Vaccines? and Potential Therapies?

Presently, some in the medical community believe it will find a vaccine within two years while others speculate one year and even three years. The discovery of a vaccine hinges upon poorly understood aspects of the viral replication cycle and diagnosis of infection — an intimate knowledge its bio-chemical and mechanistic details is needed.

Diagnosis of viral infection has returned false negatives in some instances–a terrifying outcome. The reasons for diagnostic problems arise when one understands that Zika–is an arboreal virus– it is similar to Dengue Fever and West Nile with its mode of infection. Mosquitos, the culprits for much death, can carry other viruses. That is a challenge we face…

Presently, the medical community believes its best chance to contain the spread of the illness is through vaccination.

A vaccine for Zika is pursued in at least three ways: targeting DNA replication of Zika, modifying live viruses of Zika and modifying inactive Zika virus. There are a number of different strains of the Virus. Namely, the original 1947 virus (less problematic to people) transformed– aspects of its biochemistry changed from the Zika River Valley in Africa to its infectious form of 2007-08 Micronesia and the present infection of the  Americas.

How a virus transforms  would go far in understanding how to treat the infection. That type of mechanistic detail would expedite the path to vaccination and therapy.

Therapies, presently, are in planning stages. One route of investigation subverting viral replication —

The immuno-suppressor, Rapamycin is one potential candidate for therapeutic success. It subverts the immune system and may interfere with a viral replication.

ChemSpider 2D Image | Sirolimus | C51H79NO13

The anti-biotic macrolide, Rapamycin is a therapeutic candidate for Zika infection. The therapy is in the beginning stages of research. It may be awhile. Credit for Image Chemspider

As with many candidates such as Rapamycin, it is a ‘hot compound– toxic to many vital organs.’ However, in the war against pathogens, humanity can not afford to rest…

Sources:

 

Adapting the Stess Response: Viral Subversion of the mTOR Signaling Pathway

The Global Zika virus to pregnancy: epidemiology, clinical perspectives, mechanisms, and impact

 

 

 

 

Space Exploration—Going to Europa


2012reportcvr2

Fig. 1 Source JPL/NASA –click on link below for details

Europa Study

While I was at  S.A.G.A.N.et. http://saganet.org/main  (kudos to all who run the site at SAGANet) I ran across news of a proposed “Europa” clipper mission. It is being proposed by a group of  scientists at JPL. The proposed mission is “doable” by current estimates.

 

NASA RECENTLY TASKED A TEAM OF SCIENTISTS FROM THE PLANETARY SCIENCE COMMUNITY TO WORK WITH ENGINEERS AT THE JET PROPULSION LABORATORY AND JOHNS HOPKINS’ APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY TO DESIGN A MISSION TO EUROPA THAT CAN MEET A STRICT COST CAP. THE RESULT OF THIS THOROUGH STUDY WAS THE EUROPA CLIPPER MISSION CONCEPT. FOR LESS THAN HALF THE COST OF PAST MISSION CONCEPTS, THE CLIPPER WOULD INVESTIGATE EUROPA’S CHEMISTRY, OCEAN, AND ENERGY IN ORDER TO DETERMINE WHETHER THIS ICY OCEAN MOON IS HABITABLE.
DURING ITS 2+ YEARS IN ORBIT AROUND JUPITER, THE CLIPPER WOULD PERFORM AT LEAST 32 FLY-BYS OF EUROPA, COLLECTING DATA FROM WITHIN 100KM OF THE SURFACE. THIS APPROACH WILL LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF RADIATION THAT THE SPACECRAFT WILL HAVE TO ENDURE, WHICH LOWERS THE COST AND EXTENDS THE LIFETIME OF THE MISSION. IT ALSO MEANS THAT THE CLIPPER MISSION WOULD ACTUALLY RETURN MORE TOTAL DATA VOLUME, PARTICULARLY IN ICE PENETRATING RADAR, THAN MUCH LARGER, MORE EXPENSIVE ORBITERS WOULD!

THE CLIPPER MISSION WOULD COST ABOUT $2 BILLION, ABOUT HALF THE COST OF PAST MISSION CONCEPTS. IF SELECTED AND FUNDED BY 2015, THE SPACECRAFT WOULD BE READY FOR THE MOST ADVANTAGEOUS LAUNCH DATE OF NOVEMBER 21ST, 2021. THE CLIPPER WOULD THEN BEGIN TAKING DATA AT EUROPA ON APRIL 4TH, 2028.

THE OUTER PLANETS ASSESSMENT GROUP (OPAG) IS COMPOSED OF THE FOREMOST SCIENTISTS WHO STUDY BODIES AND PROCESSES BEYOND THE ASTEROID BELT. WHEN PRESENTED WITH THE RESULTS OF THE EUROPA MISSION CONCEPT STUDY, THEY STATED, “THE STRONG MAJORITY VIEW OF THE OPAG COMMUNITY IS THAT THE MULTIPLE-FLYBY [CLIPPER] OPTION… OFFERS THE GREATEST SCIENCE RETURN PER DOLLAR, GREATEST PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT, AND GREATEST FLOW THROUGH TO FUTURE EUROPA EXPLORATION.”

 Fig. 2 Credit JPL General Source URL: http://europa.seti.org/ 
Fig. 2 Credit JPL
General Source URL: http://europa.seti.org/
Fig. 3 Credit JPL General Source URL: http://europa.seti.org/

Fig. 3 Credit JPL
General Source URL: http://europa.seti.org/


							

PLIGHT of CosmoQuest due to Sequestration


I was recently made aware of the plight of certain STEM and NASA education outreach programs. For anyone who knows of my past blog posts in support of citizen science, I ask that you (please) show your support for the noble effort done at CosmoQuest.  Please visit their site and come to know why they are cherished by those of us who understand the importance of citizen science:

Contact URL:

http://cosmoquest.org/blog/2013/06/24-hour-hangout-a-thon/

 

Space Flight Realities


Space flight into low Earth orbit and beyond sounds appealing, but there are obvious caveats. At least, that is the immediate impression that the casual observer gets when thinking of the Challenger or Columbia tragedies. However, perusing the space medicine literature from US/Soviet Sky Lab missions to the experiments at the International Space Station one gets a completely different impression of the depth of bio-medical research in space. For an extended trip past the confines of our planet it is painfully aware to a select few medical scientists, astronauts and technicians that the first trips to Mars will need to be extensively performed upon test subjects (cellular and living). Here are some of the reasons why I believe this to be true:

  • low gravity conditions affect the immune response in human subjects which in turn weakens the body’s defense to radiation at lower levels
  • cataract(s) formation is known to occur
  • prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation is known to induce cancer (i.e. tumors, leukemia)
  • cellular death (apoptosis) occurs more readily in high radiation environments
  • loss of bone density (i.e. calcium depletion)
  • kidney stone formation
  • heart rhythm irregularities
  • muscle atrophy
  • damage to the central nervous system and gut

Thus, I will survey one organ that is known to be affected during a long journey away from our planet: the thyroid gland. (I will give a list of references at the end of the post that are freely available on internet on various aspects of spaceflight and the human body.) The implications of just this one gland may seem overwhelming to some, but it should drive home what the current state of technology may need to address if the “average joe or joan” wants to leave Earth for an extended vacation.

Fig. 1 Source: How does the thyroid gland work? - National Library of Medicine - PubMed Health http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth

Fig. 1 Source: How does the thyroid gland work? – National Library of Medicine – PubMed Health
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth

The thyroid gland is located in the neck under the voice box (see Fig. 1) and the thyroid’s function is regulated by the pituitary gland (see Fig. 2) located at the base of the brain. The thyroid’s function is fairly complicated and multi-faceted.  [The thyroid produces three hormones: T3 (Triiodothryonine), T4 (thyroxine), and Calcitonin (which I will call C). T3 and T4 are primarily responsible for energy metabolism—growth, nerve responsiveness, and internal body temperature. Hormone C participates in calcium and bone metabolism. The thyroid/pituitary mechanism is (also complicated) to stimulate the thyroid to produce T3 and T4.] 

Fig. 2 Source: How does the pituitary gland work? - National Library of Medicine - PubMed Health http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth

Fig. 2 Source: How does the pituitary gland work? – National Library of Medicine – PubMed Health
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth

Before I speak of the effects of space flight upon the thyroid, I will add the following illustration of how the thyroid system works for further simplification(?):

Fig. 3  By Mikael Häggström  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Source URL:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AThyroid_system.svg

Fig. 3 By Mikael Häggström [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Source URL: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AThyroid_system.svg

  • Hypothalamus sends a message to the pituitary gland for thyroid to act
  • Thyroid releases T3 and T4 into the body to increase metabolism (the catecholamine effect pertains to mood and the central nervous system)
  • Once the body has received and acted upon the T3 and T4, the thyroid sends negative feedback to the brain to stop the pituitary and hypothalamus actions upon the thyroid

What are the known effects of Space Flight upon the thyroid gland?

Hypothyroidism is documented in humans (and animals) and decreased hormonal levels of T3 and T4 (with an increase in TSH–see fig. 3 above) are symptomatic of the condition. However, when the  astronauts returned to Earth, thyroid capacity returned to pre-flight levels. This does beg the question of what would happen during an extended (i.e. 3 year trip to Mars) stay in the Solar System? [It is, also, well documented that the thyroid (like other bodily organs) are adversely  affected by the low gravity conditions.] I am unaware of the current state of space medicine in regards to extended trips in the solar system, but that means that I could not find the pertinent references in a 48 hour period of search 😦 . [Perhaps, I didn’t look in the proper areas?]

However, in an upcoming 2013 journal article in Astrobiology, an article addresses the effects of low-level ultraviolet radiation upon rat thyroid cells. The nine authors studied the effects of UV radiation (without microgravity, e.g. in their laboratory) upon the cellular level of thyroid expression. So, in a nutshell, the investigators attempted to simulate the effects of low-level radiation upon thyroid cells (and cellular function) in the hopes of learning how thyroid DNA was affected.

Their results showed that low-level radiation (a level that did not kill thyroid cells) slowed cell growth and affected gene expression (DNA) as well. The authors did not investigate how the DNA was chemically affected or in what manner. They did offer a bio-chemical explanation (or hypothesis for further investigation) that may be in line with “free radical damage” or “photo-chemical reactions upon DNA, itself.”

And apparently, the results dovetail with a previous study done on the ISS where thyroid function was measured on cell lines. The previous study indicated that thyroid cell function diminished in low-Earth orbit, but no DNA studies were performed at the time.

Perhaps one may also infer that a lack of trips from the Earth from space faring nations and entities could mean that our technology is not advanced to the level of sending humans  beyond low-Earth orbit for longer than 1 week.

Low gravity and radiation have deleterious effects upon the thyroid gland. (as maybe inferred from the general effects of microgravity/ionizing radiation) And, the effect of radiation may be analogously viewed as if one were being dosed with radiation; low-levels of radiation produce free radicals in the body and induce unwanted bio-chemical reactions in one’s DNA . 

We are, in many ways, still ill-informed on the complete effects of low-gravity and space radiation upon the human body. Despite our celebrations of 50 years in space, we have viewed certain aspects of space flight unrealistically. Sadly however, a majority of the current populace will never venture past the confines of their current home. Perhaps this is the true state of our technology advancement?

Journal References for Thyroid Function

Albi, E. et al (2010) Thyroid cell growth: sphingomyelin metabolism as non-invasive marker for cell damage acquired during spaceflight. Astrobiology 10:811-820

Baldini, E. et al (2013) Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation on FRTL-5 Cell Growth and Thyroid-Specific Gene Expression. Astrobiology. 13 (doi: 10.1089/ast.2013.0972)

Freely Available Articles From Google Scholar Search:

Allen, D. L., Bandstra, E. R., Harrison, B. C., Thorng, S., Stodieck, L. S., Kostenuik, P. J., Morony, S., et al. (2009). Effects of spaceflight on murine skeletal muscle gene expression. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 106(2), 582–95. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.90780.2008

Higashibata, A., Szewczyk, N. J., Conley, C. a, Imamizo-Sato, M., Higashitani, A., & Ishioka, N. (2006). Decreased expression of myogenic transcription factors and myosin heavy chains in Caenorhabditis elegans muscles developed during spaceflight. The Journal of experimental biology, 209(Pt 16), 3209–18. doi:10.1242/jeb.02365

Layne, C. S., McDonald, P. V, & Bloomberg, J. J. (1997). Neuromuscular activation patterns during treadmill walking after space flight. Experimental brain research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Expérimentation cérébrale, 113(1), 104–16. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9028779

Lalani, R., Bhasin, S., Byhower, F., Tarnuzzer, R., Grant, M., Shen, R., Asa, S., et al. (2000). Myostatin and insulin-like growth factor-I and -II expression in the muscle of rats exposed to the microgravity environment of the NeuroLab space shuttle flight. The Journal of endocrinology, 167(3), 417–28. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11115768

Banerjee, S., Evanson, J., Harris, E., Lowe, S. L., Thomasson, K. a, & Porter, J. E. (2006). Identification of specific calcitonin-like receptor residues important for calcitonin gene-related peptide high affinity binding. BMC pharmacology, 6, 9. doi:10.1186/1471-2210-6-9

Chapes, S. K., Mastro, a M., Sonnenfeld, G., & Berry, W. D. (1993). Antiorthostatic suspension as a model for the effects of spaceflight on the immune system. Journal of leukocyte biology, 54(3), 227–35. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8371052

Young, L. R. (1996). Effects of orbital space flight on vestibular reflexes and perception. Acta astronautica, 36(8-12), 409–13. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11540971

Albi, E., Curcio, F., Spelat, R., Lazzarini, A., Lazzarini, R., Cataldi, S., Loreti, E., et al. (2012). Loss of parafollicular cells during gravitational changes (microgravity, hypergravity) and the secret effect of pleiotrophin. PloS one, 7(12), e48518. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048518

Martín-Lacave, I., Borrero, M. J., Utrilla, J. C., Fernández-Santos, J. M., De Miguel, M., Morillo, J., Guerrero, J. M., et al. (2009). C cells evolve at the same rhythm as follicular cells when thyroidal status changes in rats. Journal of anatomy, 214(3), 301–9. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7580.2008.01044.x

Miller, P. B., Hartman, B. O., Johnson, R. L., & Lamb, L. E. (1964). Modification of the Effects of Two Weeks of Bed Rest Upon Circulatory Functions in Man. Aerospace medicine, 35, 931–9. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14198654

Lewis, M. L., Reynolds, J. L., Cubano, L. a, Hatton, J. P., Lawless, B. D., & Piepmeier, E. H. (1998). Spaceflight alters microtubules and increases apoptosis in human lymphocytes (Jurkat). FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 12(11), 1007–18. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9707173

Allebban, Z., Lange, D., Congdon, C., Ichiki, T., Gibson, A., & Jones, B. (1994). Effects of spaceflight on the number eukocytes and lymphocyte subsets of rat peripheral blood, 55(February), 209–213.

Smith, S. M. (2002). Red blood cell and iron metabolism during space flight. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 18(10), 864–6. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12361780

Watenpaugh, D. E. (2001). Fluid volume control during short-term space flight and implications for human performance. The Journal of experimental biology, 204(Pt 18), 3209–15. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11581336

Interesting Molecules of Life: Porphyrins—Part I


What is a Porphyrin? The term porphyrin denotes a class of molecules utilized in respiration and sensory processes (i.e. heme, chlorophyll, and similar molecules associated with bacteria). The purpose of the upcoming posts will be to familiarize one with patterns that seemingly meander from primitive life through the complexities associated in the oxygenation of blood and photosynthesis. At first glance, one may not readily associate a hemoglobin molecule with a chlorophyll molecule—but their molecular structures are eerily similar. The nature of life bears a common molecular machinery throughout—or otherwise: life’s atoms, molecules, and their geometric relationships have a commonality.

Much of the geometric commonality is based upon the dynamics in quantum mechanics (chemical bonding). The important aspect to why nature chose porphyrin-like structures for heme or chlorophyll is the nebulous point of bio-organic chemistry. Organic chemistry, as we know it, is said to have a potential (bio) molecular database numbering in the millions. That “glib” statement is portentous to the nature of evolution, itself! The subtle permutations which molecular evolution may “pursue” is dictated (in part) by the most energetically, stable organic species.

The geometric commonality of the porphyrin molecule is not lost to biologists or to biochemists—however it is not discussed as fully as amino acids or DNA/RNA in common popularization. Perhaps one reason is its overall complexity and lack of “a quick payoff” (or otherwise termed as the money-maker). DNA/RNA and amino acids are readily understood by most of the scientific literate public. However, ask about the common geometry of the three molecules (illustrated below), and a few may be apt to shrug their shoulders and walk away.

Hope to see you through the end of the series of posts on life’s molecules.

The Figures in this first post are obtained at the National Institutes of Health website:

(URL) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ 

Fig. 1 Heme molecule (part Hemoglobin molecule which is responsible for blood pigmentation) There are four heme molecules per hemoglobin protein—two of which are directly bound to an oxygen molecule

Source URL
http://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/summary/summary.cgi?cid=54708752



Fig. 2 Deoxygenated Human Hemoglobin—(without oxygen)—structure determined through neutron diffraction of hemoglobin—without atom labeling or individual bonding. Resolution at 2 Angstrom. (Source citation at end of post)

Source URL

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Structure/mmdb/mmdbsrv.cgi?uid=81550


 

Source URL 
 http://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/summary/summary.cgi?cid=5496853
				

 
Fig. 4 Molecular Structure Surrounding single Chlorophyll molecule

Source URL
				http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Structure/mmdb/mmdbsrv.cgi?uid=25750

 
Fig. 5 Factor F430—molecule associated Methanogenic bacteria

Source URL 

http://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/summary/summary.cgi?cid=24892763&loc=ec_rcs
			
 __

REFERENCES (the references should be available behind a paywall)

Deoxygenated Hemoglobin citation reference: (Source citation: Direct determination of protonation states of histidine residues in a 2 a neutron structure of deoxy-human normal adult hemoglobin and implications for the bohr effect.  Kovalevsky AY, Chatake T, Shibayama N, Park SY, Ishikawa T, Mustyakimov M, Fisher Z, Langan P, Morimoto Y.  J.Mol.Biol. (2010) 398 p.276)

Chlorophyll with Surrounding Molecular Architecture: (Source citation: Crystal structure of plant photosystem I. Ben-Shem A, Frolow F, Nelson N.

Nature (2003) 426 p.630)

Factor  F430: (Source citation: Structure of an F430 variant from archaea associated with anaerobic oxidation of methane. Mayr S, Latkoczy C, Krüger M, Günther D, Shima S, Thauer RK, Widdel F, Jaun B.
		J. Am. Chem. Soc.. (2008) Aug 13;130(32):10758-67

Generalities of Science Ethics, Life in the Goldilocks Zone, and the Allan Hills Meteorite


INTRODUCTION

The years 1996-2000 were interesting to the astronomy community for many reasons. Many will remember the pronouncement of Martian fossilized life and the huge groundswell of commentary that the Allan Hills meteorite garnered. And, it was during those years that NASA announced the past presence of water on the Martian surface. Thus it would seem, the two (life and water) would go hand-in-hand. And, I was one of the converts who wanted to believe in the veracity of past life on the red planet. Since that time I have often wondered to myself—why did the ALH84001 finding not hold-up as well as it might? During the time period I recall reading many research reports on the on ALH84001. And as many can attest, all too often a lack of good, scientific judgment may be based upon a pre-conceived belief system that has no scientific foundation. Supporting the galling belief system is the self-perpetuating rationalization: a lifestyle which subconsciously massages egos. Perhaps, it is a sign of professional growth when one can understand that certain patterns of lifestyle can undermine good, scientific judgment. So, I ask, which way to turn?

FOLLOW THE WATER, THE ENERGY, or BOTH?

Simple Corollaries for Life’s Presence and Evolution . . . Why?

  • Life requires a solvent—but it may not always be water
  • Life requires energy
  • Solvation and Energy generally act in a synergistic manner

Our, Earth-like, lives are heavily tilted towards water and the simpler elements on the periodic table. One primary reason is the energetics, and the meaning of the supposition might be summarized in the following manner—our habitable zone is synergistically shaped between ourselves and the environment in which we live. Try to imagine (for the moment) if our (?) Sun was an F class star and not G class. A primary difference is the temperature of the new Sun—one could surmise that the chemistry would be different, as well. And, quite possibly, silicon-based life may arise—using the carbon analogy of periodicity within the table of elements. (Although the presumption sounds deceptively simple, the chemistry is far from simplistic. See the following link for a podcast for a consideration on weird chemistry–Limits of Organic Life.)

It might, well, be speculated that water could serve the role that oxygen serves in our current milieu—and even metal back-bonding would replace the ubiquitous hydrogen-bond. Although the above-mentioned scenario seems fantastic—one may take into account that there may not be one good, realistic definition for non-carbon life. Thus, as current paradigms of carbon-based biochemistry seem to limit our vision of life—the need to expand efforts in basic research in inorganic models utilizing realistic energy cycles could open new venues for biochemical research.

Some references of note:

Lilia Montoya, Lourdes B. Celis, Elías Razo-Flores, Ángel G. Alpuche-Solís. 2012. Distribution of CO2 fixation and acetatemineralization pathways in microorganisms from extremophilic anaerobic biotopes. Extremophiles 16:6, 805-817.

Charles H. Lineweaver, Aditya Chopra. 2012. The Habitability of Our Earth and Other Earths: Astrophysical, Geochemical,Geophysical, and Biological Limits on Planet Habitability. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 40:1, 597-623.

C. S. Cockell. 2011. Life in the lithosphere, kinetics and the prospects for life elsewhere. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369:1936, 516-537.

Jorge Rodríguez, Juan M. Lema, Robbert Kleerebezem. 2008. Energy-based models for environmental biotechnology. Trends in Biotechnology 26:7, 366-374.

Niles Lehman. 2008. A Recombination-Based Model for the Origin and Early Evolution of Genetic Information. Chemistry & Biodiversity 5:9, 1707.