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Portable Analyzer Is Powerful Tool for Detecting Biomarkers of Life on Mars.

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- The Mars Organic Analyzer (MOA), a portable capillary electrophoresis instrument, combined with state-of-the-art fluorescent labeling technology, can detect a much broader spectrum of organic compounds than was previously possible, and these could serve as key biomarkers of extinct or existing life on Mars, according to a report in the December 2006 issue (Volume 6, Number 6) of Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. ( The report is available free online at

Recent observations based on the findings of remote sensing devices and robotic probes that have explored the martian surface suggest that liquid water is, or at least was at some time present on Mars. This has revitalized efforts to search for evidence of extinct or existing life forms. Critical to this effort is the availability of highly sensitive instruments capable of detecting very small quantities of the building blocks or degradation products of microbial life forms.

Alison Skelley, H. James Cleaves, Christine Jayarajah, Jeffrey Bada, and Richard Mathies, from the University of California, Berkeley, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego, demonstrated that the microchip capillary electrophoresis (CE)-based Mars Organic Analyzer was able to detect and analyze with high sensitivity a greatly expanded range of target analytes, in a paper entitled, "Application of the Mars Organic Analyzer to Nucleobase and Amine Biomarker Detection."

The authors compared different extraction techniques--including hydrolysis and sublimation--to isolate analytes from bacteria. They utilized fluorescamine labeling to identify amine-containing biomarker compounds, including amino acids, amino sugars, and nucleobases.

"The group's success in applying the MOA to the analysis of a wider variety of organic biomarker compounds is an important advancement of this component of the Urey Instrument, which is being developed for the ESA ExoMars Mission scheduled to launch in 2013," says journal Editor-in-Chief, Sherry L. Cady, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at Portland State University. To learn more about the groups efforts to find life on Mars, visit their website at

Astrobiology is the leading peer-reviewed journal in its field. To promote this developing field, the Journal has teamed up with The Astrobiology Web to highlight one outstanding paper per issue of Astrobiology. This paper is available free online at and to visitors of The Astrobiology Web at

Astrobiology is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published quarterly in print and online. The Journal provides a forum for scientists seeking to advance our understanding of life's origins, evolution, distribution and destiny in the universe. Table of contents and a free sample issue may be viewed online at

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm's 60 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available at
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Dec 12, 2006
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