According to a British study, the immune system of mammals, including humans, could experience great difficulty in the face of possible microorganisms from other planets. The difficulties would relate to the identification of these microbes and therefore, to the defense of the body against their attacks.
Theorizing extraterrestrial life forms
The conquest of space raises questions of health. Indeed, the humans sent to colonize the Moon and Mars will have to deal with changes in gravity and cosmic radiation, among other things. There are also some studies suggesting that long space travel could deeply affect the brain or even the intestines.
In a study published in the journal Microorganisms on July 17, 2020, researchers from the University of Exeter (United Kingdom) are also interested in potential exposure to microorganisms from another planet where life is would be developed.
The lead author of the study, Katja Shaefer, said in a statement that life on Earth is based on 22 essential amino acids. However, the interested party indicates that this research has made it possible to theorize life forms that have evolved in an environment with different amino acids. Scientists, therefore, evoke exo-peptides containing rare amino acids on our planet.
A rather disturbing conclusion
Importantly, the study leaders claimed to have tested the ability of a mammal’s immune system to detect them. It was also about understanding how the organism could defend itself against a possible attack from alien microbes. To assess this ability, the researchers used mice, whose immune systems are very similar to that of humans.
Thus, the researchers exposed the immune cells of the mice to two exo-peptides. These mimicked the structure of exo-peptides frequently found on the bodies of meteorites. After the exposure, the scientists noted the onset of an immune response. However, this was of fairly low intensity compared to what is observable in normal times.
The study’s conclusion is still only a hypothesis, but it is quite worrying. Indeed, researchers believe that human contact with extraterrestrial microorganisms could represent an immunological risk. This is a risk for astronauts on the mission, but also for Earth. Indeed, some space missions aim to bring back samples from Mars and other exoplanets!