(ORDO NEWS) — The immune system in mammals, including humans, works by detecting and killing cells that seem foreign to our body.
Microorganisms (such as bacteria and viruses) may exist outside of Earth, and there are plans to search for them on Mars and some of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.
Such organisms may be based on other amino acids (key building blocks of all life) than life forms on Earth.
Scientists from the Universities of Aberdeen and Exeter tested how mammalian immune cells reacted to peptides (combinations of amino acids) containing two amino acids that are rare on Earth but commonly found on meteorites.
It has been found that the effectiveness of the immune system is much lower in response to these “alien” peptides, compared to those found on Earth.
This, in turn, suggests that alien or space microbes could be harmful to humans, and could create problems during space missions or if they are returned to Earth for further study.
Professor Neil Gow, from the University of Exeter, said: “The world is now waking up to the problem of immunity caused by the emergence of completely new pathogens.”
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