A 28th element has proven to be essential for life: bromine.
Vanderbilt University scientists have added another element to the list of elements vital for life.
In a paper published Thursday, June 5, in the journal Cell, Vanderbilt University researchers establish for the first time that bromine, among the 92 naturally occurring chemical elements in the universe, is the 28th element essential for tissue development in all animals, from primitive sea creatures to humans.
“Without bromine, there are no animals. That’s the discovery,” said Billy Hudson, Ph.D., the paper’s senior author and Elliott V. Newman Professor of Medicine.
Why was this not found earlier? Unlike calcium, iron, potassium and other elements, bromine does not make up any organelles or machines in the cell. It works indirectly during the construction of tissues. But without its participation, there would be no animal life, the investigators found. A 4-minute embedded video explains the importance of this discovery. The team was obviously delighted to find one of the “incredibly fundamental things” about life, a finding that could have important real-world applications in disease treatment.
Foundations for the discovery were laid in the 1980s, when researchers back then found that certain patients had defective collagen-IV, an essential protein for tissue development. Since then, several patient groups have been found to be bromine-deficient. The Vanderbilt team found that fruit flies deprived of bromine in their diet had radically deformed tissues, and most died. The flies could be rescued, however, by addition of bromine to the diet. Subsequent research found that bromide (the ionic form) is an important cofactor for the enzyme peroxidasin, which builds collagen-IV. Bromide plays a key role in formation of the sulfilimine bond. “The chemical element bromine is thus ‘essential for animal development and tissue architecture,’ they report.”
Here is another requirement for habitability of a planet for life as we know it. Astrobiologists err by thinking that planets might be habitable merely with rock and water. Perhaps microbial life could get by without bromine, but not multicellular life that builds tissues. It’s no bromide (n., a platitude or trite saying) to say that life depends on bromide (the ionic form of bromine). Can you find any place on Earth without animals? From the frozen poles to the depths of the sea, to the driest deserts, animal life flourishes because of bromine. The Creator ensured that the planet He designed to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18), and on which He formed creatures in His image, had sufficient quantities of bromine available all over the globe, along with 27 other essential elements.