Scientists and Science Fiction writers, when imagining alien life, have wondered if an alien biochemistry can be based on elements like Silicon (which has some similar properties). From the Demons of Keith Laumer’s A Plague of Demons to the alien xenomorphs in the Aliens franchise, it has been amusing to imagine life either based either wholly or partially on carbon’s sibling.
While Carbon-Silicon bonds are typically done artificially, a research team in Caltech recovered a bacterium named Rhodothermus marinus from its native hot springs and mutated its DNA repeatedly. Their goal was to see if an enzyme called cytochrome c would bond the two elements together more readily, and it did.
In addition to possible industrial applications in the future, studying this enzyme could lead to a better understanding of how organic and inorganic chemistry blend (or don’t). In the far future this could be the key to a cybernetic union between humans and machines, or the synthesis of a wholly new form of life…