Commencement of Ice Research
In the year 1992, a team of researchers sought out to collect samples of ice cores from the Guliya Ice Cap, a glacier in the Tibetan plateau, and deciphered that the ice was approximately 15,000 years old. A thorough analysis revealed that the ice was home to several groups of virus genera, many of which are not known to modern science today. Some of these samples were frozen and stored for further study as well.
Years later, in 2015, another team collected samples of ice cores from the same glacier which were also stored for further analysis.
Soon, Ohio State University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory became a part of the same research program and their scientists conducted several tests for the nuclei, with an aim to discover the kind of organisms that could get trapped in them.
When the 1992 and 2015 teams originally collected their ice core samples, they did not take into consideration the fact, that the equipment they were using could contaminate the cores. This meant that scientists of the current research program had to take special care to eliminate any contamination that had occurred during the initial extraction, and ensure that they do not introduce any new contaminants themselves.
To ensure having a clean sample, the researchers working in a cold storage facility first cut the outer layer of each core. Then, each sample was washed with ethanol to melt approximately half an inch of ice. It was washed again with sterile water, which resulted in the ice melting. The team also created test samples by repeating the same cleaning procedure in the ice cores that had first been covered with known viruses and bacteria. The samples were finally deemed pristine and ready for study.
A close look at the newly cleaned ice cores revealed the presence of 33 groups of virus genera, 28 of which are not known to modern science.
Research papers documented these findings in the words “Viral particle enrichment and ultra-low-input quantitative viral metagenomic sequencing from ∼520 and ∼15,000 years old ice revealed 33 viral populations (i.e., species-level designations) that represented four known genera and likely 28 novel viral genera (assessed by gene-sharing networks)”.
The scientists also noted that the viruses they found in the nuclei of the two sites differed from each other, probably because they were procured at different points in time, suggesting climate change to be a cause.
They assert that the importance of their work could increase in the years to come due to Global Warming looming over the world. As temperatures across the planet rise due to global warming, so does the rate at which glaciers melt. This puts forward a frightening possibility of reactivating deadly viruses that can cause an epidemic. I believe human beings across the globe need to take control of their actions and provide a safe environment for the generations to come, free of disease.
If only we were fortunate enough to witness the days of the Ice Age, when the white was the purest, when organic living was the norm, and when royal Mammoths left their footprints while strolling across the snow.