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NASA research says life as we know it might be more flexible than we understand

I’ve always thought that Mono Lake looked like an alien landscape. Turns out, it just might be one.

David McNew / Getty Images

The famed "Tufa" formations stand at the edge of Mono Lake, near Lee Vining, Calif. According to reports, NASA has forced microbes to become a completely new life form, a bacteria that uses arsenic instead of phosphorus in its DNA.

NASA via Reuters

Dr. Ronald Oremland, left, and Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon examine a sediment core pulled up from Mono Lake in Calif. in preparation to inoculate cultures with the local microbes and search for life that can survive and flourish with high arsenic and no added phosphorus. The strange, salty lake has yielded an equally strange bacterium that thrives on arsenic and redefines life as we know it, researchers reported on Dec. 2, 2010. The finding shows just how little scientists know about the variety of life forms on Earth, and may greatly expand where they should be looking for life on other planets and moons, the NASA-funded team said. They also suggest that astrobiologists looking for life on other planets do not need to look only for planets with the same balance of elements as Earth has.

Msnbc.com’s Alan Boyle writes

NASA's secret is finally out: Researchers say they've forced microbes from a gnarly California lake to become arsenic-gobbling aliens. It may not be as thrilling as discovering life on Titan, but the claim is so radical that some chemists aren't yet ready to believe it.

Read Boyle’s full story