New Microorganism discovered by SIU student, professor - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

New Microorganism discovered by SIU student, professor

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CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An undergraduate student at Southern Illinois University, and her professor made a new discovery that may make history.

Amanda Blocker and her Assistant Professor, Scott Hamilton-Brehm made the discovery from a 900-meter deep borehole on the California-Nevada border.

Hamilton-Brehm says "For this moment in time Amanda and me are the only ones on this whole planet that know something about this mysterious organism... When we catch an organism like this it's a big deal, we got something that is a huge representative of a larger group of organisms."

Amanda Blocker, Undergraduate Research Assistant, says, "This is a bacterium that's only been known in sequence and it represents a whole new phylum."

Hamilton-Brehm traveled to the desert site and placed sponges in the borehole to collect samples. Blocker then helped culture the bacterium in the Carbondale lab. They've given their find a temporary strain name of SIUC-1.

Hamilton-Brehm says the possibilities are endless, "What does it do, what does it's brothers and sisters do? It may hold secrets for medical technologies, industrial applications, we just don't know," He continued, "The pressure is on us to characterize it. We have to find out everything about it, everything from temperature preference food preference, we have to sequence the genome, put this all together, put it as a publication and get it out there and share it with the scientific community."

Blocker says, "What we've learned so far is that it's anaerobic so oxygen kills it. Right now, I'm working on temperatures experiments. It likes about 140 degrees Fahrenheit."

The bacterium also seems to be a fan of an artificial sweetener called xylitol.

Blocker says, "As an undergraduate it's pretty exciting, it's just something we didn't really expect."

Scientists know a lot about life on the Earth's surface but Blocker and her professor hope the new microorganism will help them learn more about life deep underground.

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