In early 2012, organic chemists at the University of York made a significant advance towards establishing the origin of the carbohydrates (sugars) that form the building blocks of life. A team led by Dr Paul Clarke in the Department of Chemistry at York re-created a process which could have occurred in the prebiotic world.
"There are a lot of fundamental questions about the origins of life and many people think they are questions about biology. But for life to have evolved, you have to have a moment when non-living things become living -- everything up to that point is chemistry," Clarke said.
All biological molecules have an ability to exist as left-handed forms or right-handed forms. All sugars in biology are made up of the right-handed form of molecules and yet all the amino acids that make up the peptides and proteins are made up of the left-handed form.
The researchers found using simple left-handed amino acids to catalyse the formation of sugars resulted in the production of predominately right-handed form of sugars. It could explain how carbohydrates originated and why the right-handed form dominates in nature.
The Daily Galaxy via University of York