Special Delivery: Ancient Asteroids May Have Delivered the Building Blocks of Life to Earth

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asteroids A new study suggests that the building blocks of life could have been delivered to the planet as a result of a collision with Earth.

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Scientists have previously found in meteorites three of the five nitrogenous bases, or information units, that serve as the basis for DNA and RNA. New results published this week in a peer-reviewed journal Connection with naturereport how the remaining two types were discovered by researchers led by Yasuhiro Oba, an associate professor at the Institute of Low Temperature Sciences at Hokkaido University in Japan.

The researchers say DNA is unlikely to have formed on an asteroid, but delivering these genetic building blocks to asteroids could help lead to its development here.

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“We now have evidence that the full range of nitrogenous bases used in life today could have been available on Earth when life began,” said study co-author Danny Glavin, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. . description of the study by the space agency.

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In earlier experiments, the researchers discovered the nitrogenous bases adenine, guanine and uracil by placing asteroid grains in meteorite tea to extract the substances into a solution that was then analyzed.

Later experiments used colder water and more sensitive assay methods to extract and identify the nitrogenous bases of cytosine and thymine, while more sensitive assay methods detected the molecules, the researchers said.

“This group has developed a technique that is more like a cold drink than hot tea and is capable of extracting more delicate compounds,” Jason Dworkin, another study co-author who leads research at NASA’s Astrobiological Analysis Laboratory, said in a NASA study update. “I was amazed that they saw cytosine, which is very fragile.”

Back in 1980, Carl Sagan said: “We are made of stellar stuff.” And this study confirms observations that meteorite impacts or space dust could have brought some of the building blocks of life to Earth millions of years ago.

“This is the addition of more and more parts; Meteorites have now been found to contain sugars and bases,” Dvorkin said. “It’s great to see progress in creating fundamental biological molecules from space.”

Follow Mike Snyder on Twitter: @mikesnider.




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