Some time ago, a study of three huge saltwater lakes was found under the ice at the south pole of Mars. Similar lakes also exist on earth that contain extremophiles, that is, microorganisms that can live in an extremely hot or extremely cold environment. Shatakshi Asthana spoke with Indian-born scientist Dr Ram Karan, who works on similar extremophiles for Navbharat Times Online. These organisms can live without oxygen, at subzero temperatures, and in salt water where other organisms cannot survive. They are found on the deep Antarctic Lake on Earth and similar creatures can be found in the Lakes of Mars. Dr Ram Karan researched this organism at the University of Maryland, funded by the US space agency NASA. Dr Karan Red C., a young enzymological researcher at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia, is conducting research in Antarctica. Read here, interesting things told by Dr Ram Karan about life on Mars and these untouched corners of the earth-
The pursuit of “ life ” on earth
Dr Ram Karan, in collaboration with researchers from Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia and France, discovered the characteristics of a microorganism found in Antarctica that allows it to survive in conditions similar to the environment of Mars. This research has been accepted by a prestigious international scientific journal “Microorganism” based in Switzerland. This particular microorganism was discovered in a very large salt lake “Deep Lake” in Antarctica. Dr Ram Karan discovered an enzyme “lactase” (beta-galactosidase) in this organism. He also explained in detail its design.
It is not known whether life is present in Mars’ atmosphere or not, but expeditions from NASA and other countries are working to find out.
In 2017, one of his articles in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America discussed Antarctic microorganisms. It has been said that the molecular basis of life for bacteria is like life on Mars and the discovery of other planets in our galaxy.
What is the significance of the discovery of life on the lake?
Water is a very precious resource. If the surface water is usable, it can be a big success. Life expectancy is still increasing. Even though the water on Mars appears to be salty, we do know of extremophiles who live in a salty environment. Another thing to keep in mind is that astronauts need water for drinking. It can also be used for breathing when exhaling oxygen. Oxygen and hydrogen are used in rocket fuel.
A kilogram of any fuel to go to Mars can be worth millions of dollars. Clean water, oxygen and surface fuel reduce the cost of the Mars mission. Future missions will go to new instruments and such technology will be tested that will answer questions related to life.
How can the similarity between the Antarctic sample and the discovery of Mars be useful for future life?
There is an obvious question, can life be helped by lakes or ponds on Mars? In the latest study, there are indications that saline water believed to be near the surface of Mars may contain such an amount of oxygen that can provide the basis for microbial life in the form of extremophiles. This study has reinforced the possibility of life on Mars.
Antarctica Deep Lake is the coldest and most extreme aquatic environment on the planet. Deep Lake has been a center of attraction for marine biologists and astrobiologists due to its similarities to Mars. This lake is never frozen. Even at temperatures below -20 ° C, this is not acceptable because the salt here is very high. The discovery of salt water on the frozen pole of Mars is similar to the study of extremophiles.
In his research, the peculiarities of the proteins necessary for life on Mars were revealed. In the future, when scientists study the salt samples from Mars to search for life, they will find its similarity in life found on Earth. In such a situation, with the help of Dr. Ram’s study, it is possible to better understand the combination of different factors that can be found on Earth and on other planets.
How are samples collected in Antarctica and using what techniques are they studied?
Microbes living in sea ice are difficult to sample. Protists live in brine (salt water) channels that form in ice crystals of freshness. There shouldn’t be much change in salinity to protect the delicate organisms, sampling, and laboratory techniques that are produced by melting ice. Ice sampling is done with a corer or Jiffy drill. The ice corer supplies sea ice in the form of a cylinder. Samples are taken from it and melted in filtered seawater and the microbes are studied.
Apart from that, there is a way to punch holes through which microbes are allowed to get saline solution. These samples are brought to the laboratory where incubation vessels, culture facilities and decontamination equipment are placed at low temperature.
You are also working on research related to pollution. Antarctica is facing the serious consequences of climate change. Have effects on extremophiles been observed so far? Did the sample or study make a difference due to changing circumstances?
The environment at the bottom of the ocean is the largest echocyst on earth, which covers about 65%. Evidence of the impact of climate change is also found here. It directly affects the rise in temperature, oxygen content and pH in the ocean floor and indirectly affects the productivity of the ocean and through it the presence of organic matter at the ocean floor.
How can Joe Biden’s arrival in America affect scientific institutions, research and development?
Federal funds are expected to increase for research and science, including the university, which will be the priority of the Biden administration. Corona virus outbreaks, climate change and space exploration are issues Biden will positively affect. Biden proposes that billions of dollars be spent on research and development through the economic and climate policy platform. Biden announced that billions of dollars will be spent to find a cure for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.
Who is Dr Ram Karan?
Dr Ram Karan, who has published 37 research papers so far, has received several international awards for his research. These include awards received in the United States, Japan and Italy. In the village of Tiyodhi, in the Baghpat district, bordering Delhi, one would hardly have thought that Ramkaran Sharma, a young man studying in primary school and sharing the hand of a family in the sugar cane fields, would become one day the best young scientist in the world. Dr Ramkaran received the award for best young scientist in Fukuoka, Japan and Italy. His research on the rivalry between 150 scientific participants from 35 countries has won awards. He is currently seeking to make the world free from industrial pollution. The US government chose him for a research grant in the United States, which is only awarded to a single scientist from 48 countries in Asia.
Life goes in the direction of the departure of the mother
Reaching this position has not been easy for Dr Ram Karan. He wanted to become a doctor. His mother Prakashi Devi had an asthma problem due to the pollution and died from it. Ramkaran broke down due to the death of his mother while studying and his medical preparations were cut off but he did not give up on life and decided that after finishing his studies he would research pollution. , medicine and the environment to find a permanent solution to pollution. He did his BSc and MSc from Janata Vedic Degree College in Barout. NET (JRF, Junior Research Fellow) qualified at IIT Delhi from where he completed his PhD. Her father, Brahmadatta Sharma, developed cancer while studying at IIT. Dr Ram Karan, who studies by day, served his father at night, but his father died after three years of service. Anupama Sharma, wife of Dr Ramkaran Sharma also did M-Tech at Delhi IIT, she was Assistant Professor of Physics and Mathematics in USA. She also fully supports the efforts of Dr Ramkaran.