Deep Space Capable of Creating Linked Pairs of Amino Acids --Essential Building Blocks of Life
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March 06, 2013

Deep Space Capable of Creating Linked Pairs of Amino Acids --Essential Building Blocks of Life

 

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A new experiment simulating conditions in deep space reveals that the complex building blocks of life could have been created on icy interplanetary dust and then carried to Earth, jump-starting life. Chemists from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Hawaii, Manoa, showed that conditions in space are capable of creating complex dipeptides – linked pairs of amino acids – that are essential building blocks shared by all living things.

The discovery opens the door to the possibility that these molecules were brought to Earth aboard a comet or possibly meteorites, catalyzing the formation of proteins (polypeptides), enzymes and even more complex molecules, such as sugars, that are necessary for life.

“It is fascinating to consider that the most basic biochemical building blocks that led to life on Earth may well have had an extraterrestrial origin,” said UC Berkeley chemist Richard Mathies, coauthor of a paper published online last week and scheduled for the March 10 print issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

While scientists have discovered basic organic molecules, such as amino acids, in numerous meteorites that have fallen to Earth, they have been unable to find the more complex molecular structures that are prerequisites for our planet’s biology. As a result, scientists have always assumed that the really complicated chemistry of life must have originated in Earth’s early oceans.

In an ultra-high vacuum chamber chilled to 10 degrees above absolute zero (10 Kelvin), Seol Kim and Ralf Kaiser of the Hawaiian team simulated an icy snowball in space including carbon dioxide, ammonia and various hydrocarbons such as methane, ethane and propane. When zapped with high-energy electrons to simulate the cosmic rays in space, the chemicals reacted to form complex, organic compounds, specifically dipeptides, essential to life.

At UC Berkeley, Mathies and Amanda Stockton then analyzed the organic residues through the Mars Organic Analyzer, an instrument that Mathies designed for ultrasensitive detection and identification of small organic molecules in the solar system. The analysis revealed the presence of complex molecules – nine different amino acids and at least two dipeptides – capable of catalyzing biological evolution on earth.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Mathies Royalty Fund at UC Berkeley.

The Daily Galaxy via University of California/Berkeley 

Image credit: Radio telescopes picked up the faint but unmistakable signal of acetonitrile (inset), a precursor of amino acids, in space. Credit: ATNF (image)/Sven Thorwith, MPIfR (inset)

 

Comments

Until its proven that these processes just CANT happen on Earth, the whole thing seems like a waste of time. Sure, I see the point that when they can happen in space then they can be on billions upon billions of planets giving a better chance for life, but that would not prove they had a part of creating life on this rock. If they could be made on Earth, even if it was much much harder, could we prove that the amino acids we use started in space? Or the RNA? Or the rest? Or would it be accepted again as blind faith, right or wrong, and forgotten till someone figures out a way to prove it either way? Even then some of us will never accept that answer either I guess. OK, enough rambling.

There is hard need to broad our minds about the life as earth itself is a giant self regulating living organism. this biological chemistry has played a vital role to form this type of life not life on earth. infect whole universe is like a natural forest where this type of cosmic life ( cosmic bodies) are germinating and growing and dying.as one tree is a result of one seed same one planet is a result of one carbonaceous meteoroid ( contains amino acid and organic chemistry). Organic hydrocarbons we are using today is a metabolism activity of earth itself and has been being produced in the deep origins of earth itself.all minerals like iron,zn,mn,cu,nickel..... etc are very much common factor in all living organism including [email protected]

Great article and experiment! Cosmic origins and space dipeptides seem to fit as part of this puzzle. Space is key piece, and once this ice came to Earth then...its easy street for life development.no duh...In short, This experiment maybe one of the great finds of our generation, after finding exoplanets, which of course would be number 1.

Fascinating experiment though it's just as fascinating to observe the hubris that imagines that conditions in far deep space can be replicated in a laboratory on earth.

i wonder how the cosmic rays could catalyze the formation of these acids while other data suggest that without our magnetic shield these same cosmic rays would extinguish life. And if the rays in fact assisted then how did they reacdh earth to start the process. This is a paradoxial oxy-moron in my humble and not-completely-educated opinion, but I follow logic and reasoning.
I'm apt to believe that human life originated on earth but concede that life can just as easily exist elsewhere off-world, though complex life I wuldn't be surprised if we are alone, at least in this galaxy.


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