The key ‘building blocks’ of DNA and RNA have been discovered on asteroids, scientists confirm
A study that published this week showed that five of the key factors in determining whether or not life’s seeds were actually brought from outer space to Earth has given support for the hypothesis that they could be. “ingredients”Asteroids contain all the necessary elements to create DNA. Scientists have found the last two pieces to the puzzle of DNA, which were previously unknown in meteorite specimens. This is according to a peer-reviewed Nature Communications paper.
The genetic foundation of all human beings is DNA andRNA. They are made up of five informational components known as nucleobases. Scientists have found three of these five components in meteorite samples so far, indicating that the elements could have come to Earth via space.
A team headed by Associate Professor Yasuhiro Oba from Hokkaido University, Japan has identified the two remaining components. Scientists from Japan, America, and Japan have examined three meteorites made of carbonaceous material that fell in Australia and Canada.
The newly discovered nucleobases – cytosine and thymine – may have previously escaped scientists’ attention due to their particularly delicate structure, meaning they could have been degraded due to the nature of previous experiments, the US space agency NASA, which also contributed to the research, suggested.
In the past, meteorite was placed in hot fluids to analyze its solution. However, Oda’s team used another method that “is more like cold brew than hot tea and is able to pull out more delicate compounds,”Jason Dworkin was a coauthor of the paper and is located at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt in Maryland.
“We now have evidence that the complete set of nucleobases used in life today could have been available on Earth when life emerged,”Danny Glavin is another researcher from the Goddard centre.
Evolutionary biology has shown that different chemical elements combine to form competing nucleic acids, which is a precursor of deoxyribonucleic and ribonucleic acids (DNA). It is not clear how our planet got the building blocks necessary for life.
This discovery doesn’t necessarily mean life arrived on Earth by space travel. One hypothesis is that life was created in space. “prebiotic soup” on the planet’s surface during the Earth’s “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,”Oba is the principal researcher in the study.
Nucleobases are not living organisms themselves, but rather organic chemical compounds seen as ‘precursors’ to life in the form of DNA. These compounds could be created by chemical reactions on asteroids traveling through space as shown in the current study.
The discovery gives scientists an understanding of how complex chemical processes occur in the universe.
“This is adding more and more pieces; meteorites have been found to have sugars and bases now,”Dworkin said. “It’s exciting to see progress in the making of the fundamental molecules of biology from space,”He has also added.
Yet, now the scientists also face some new questions about the life ‘precursors’. The nucleobases, which are also known as ‘purines and pyrimidines’, depending on their structure, appear to be surprisingly uniform despite the numerous places of their origin.
“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 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 concluded.