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New study shows there may be life on Mars

New study shows there may be life on Mars Illustrative photo (Freepik)
Author: Maria Kholina

Recent NASA missions have discovered a significant amount of perchlorate on Mars. These salts can absorb water from the atmosphere, creating concentrated solutions known as brines. Scientists believe this environment could potentially support life, both in the past and present, according to Knowridge.

Research findings

Since liquid water is essential for life, NASA's strategy in the search for life on Mars has been to "follow the water," leading scientists to closely examine these perchlorate brines.

In a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, scientists from the College of Biological Sciences explored how Mars' unique geochemical environment could have supported life both in the past and present.

The team, led by Associate Professor Aaron Engelhart, tested two types of ribonucleic acids (RNA) and protein enzymes from Earth to see how they function in perchlorate brines.

Who can survive in Mars' extreme conditions

Their findings showed that RNA thrived in perchlorate brines, while protein enzymes did not. Only proteins from organisms that live in extreme conditions on Earth, such as high temperature or high salt content, could function properly on Mars.

In perchlorate solutions, RNA enzymes were capable of unusual reactions, such as generating new molecules with chlorine atoms — a reaction previously unseen by scientists.

"These results show that RNA is uniquely well-suited to the very salty environments found on Mars and could be present on other celestial bodies," Engelhart said.

The team continues to investigate the chlorination chemistry they discovered, as well as other reactions that RNA can perform in high-salt environments. This research not only sheds light on the potential for life on Mars but also expands our understanding of the adaptability and resilience of life in extreme conditions.