A team led by Associate Professor Yasuhiro Oba of Hokkaido University in Japan has found all five ingredients of life on meteorites.
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A study published earlier this week discovered that all five crucial “ingredients” needed to build DNA can be found on asteroids, supporting a hypothesis that the seeds of life could have been literally transported to Earth from space.
According to an article published (pdf given below) this week in the peer-reviewed Nature Communications journal, a group of scientists has identified the final two parts of the DNA jigsaw that had previously not been observed in any meteorite samples.
The genetic basis of all known living things on Earth, DNA and RNA, is made up of five main informational components termed nucleobases. Until now, scientists have only been able to find three of the five in meteorite samples, indicating that they could have come from space.
The final two components had eluded researchers until now were identified thanks to a team led by Associate Professor Yasuhiro Oba of Hokkaido University in Japan. Three carbonaceous meteorites that fell in Australia, the United States, and Canada were analyzed by the team, which included scientists from the United States and Japan.
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The newly discovered nucleobases cytosine and thymine may have previously escaped scientists’ notice due to their delicate structure, which means they could have been destroyed due to the nature of past investigations, according to NASA, which also participated in the research.
Previously, meteorite samples were immersed in hot liquids and the resulting solution was analyzed. Oda’s team, on the other hand, used a process that “is more like cold brew than hot tea and is able to pull out more delicate compounds,” according to Jason Dworkin, a co-author of the paper at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
“We now have evidence that the complete set of nucleobases used in life today could have been available on Earth when life emerged”, according to Danny Glavin, another Goddard center researcher.
According to modern evolutionary biology, chemical elements interacted to produce various, competing nucleic acid sequences, which are precursors to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) (RNA). The precise technique by which our planet was seeded with the primordial building elements required for life to arise remains unknown.
The discovery does not imply that life arrived on Earth from outer space. Another theory proposes that life arose from a “prebiotic soup” on the planet’s surface during its “infancy.”
“If the production efficiency of nucleobases on the Earth was much higher than the inputs from space… contributions to the emergence of genetic function and/or life itself from such extraterrestrial nucleobases could not be large,” said Oba, the study’s lead researcher.
Nucleobases are organic chemical compounds that serve as ‘precursors’ to life in the form of DNA, rather than living organisms. According to a recent study, any of these chemicals can develop as a result of chemical processes occurring on asteroids traveling through space.
The discovery, on the other hand, provides scientists with a better grasp of the universe’s complicated chemical processes.
“This is adding more and more pieces; meteorites have been found to have sugars and bases now,” Dworkin has said. “It’s exciting to see progress in the making of the fundamental molecules of biology from space,” he added.
However, scientists are now confronted with some fresh doubts about life’s ‘precursors.’ Despite their diverse origins, the nucleobases, which are also known as ‘purines and pyrimidines’ depending on their structure, appear to be surprisingly uniform.
“I wonder why purines and pyrimidines are exceptional in that they do not show structural diversity in carbonaceous meteorites unlike other classes of organic compounds such as amino acids and hydrocarbons,” Oba has said.
“Since purines and pyrimidines can be synthesized in extraterrestrial environments, as has been demonstrated by our own study, one would expect to find a wide diversity of these organic molecules in meteorites,” he added.
Read the study given below: