Contact with Alien Biomes: Possible Biochemical Incompatibilities

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K. Roy et al. (2018), JBIS, 71, pp.151-155

Refcode: 2018.71.151
Keywords: Alien life, Amino acids, Terraforming, Space Colonization

Much effort has been expended on the search for habitable planets. One potential goal of this search is to find a second Earth, a planet that will eventually become another home for Humanity. While it is possible that lifeless, but habitable, planets exist, a more likely scenario is that a habitable planet has oxygen in its atmosphere because life of some sort is releasing it as a waste product. Earth life may not be compatible with alien life and attempts to colonize such worlds may not end well. Earth life is generally constructed of 21 specific amino acids. These amino acids are synthesized within the cells of living plants, animals, bacteria, archaea and fungi. Earth DNA systems are tailored to direct the construction of proteins from these amino acids. Yet, there are some 300 naturally occurring and an estimated 3000 plus possible amino acids that could exist. Independently evolved life on a distant planet will probably utilize some, but not all, of the 21 amino acids utilized by Earth life and will likely use some amino acids not used by Earth life. Ingesting (and perhaps even slight contact with) alien life could disrupt the function of Earth cells. Perhaps when humanity ventures to other solar systems, it will not be to colonize living alien worlds, but rather to find suitable sterile planets that can be terraformed into a second Earth inhabited solely by life transplanted from Earth.

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