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Star Wars-inspired bacterium provides glimpse into life

A bacterium whose name was inspired by the Star Wars films has provided new clues into the evolution of our own cells and how they came to possess the vital energy-producing units called mitochondria.

The University of Sydney research investigated the bacterium Midichloria mitochondrii- named after helpful Star Wars microbes, called Midi-chlorians, that live inside cells and grant the mystical power known as The Force. It has revealed that mitochondria may have entered our cells though a parasitic bacterium that used a tail to swim and could survive with almost no oxygen.

The work, published in this month's issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution, challenges traditional explanations of how the ancestors of mitochondria first entered our cells between one and a half and two billion years ago. It also sheds new light on a process recognized as one of the major transitions in the history of life on earth.

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