Our bodies contain proteins that are made of smaller molecules that can be either left- or right-handed, depending upon their structure. Regardless of which hand we use to write, however, all human beings are `left-handed` at the molecular level. Life on Earth uses the left-handed variety and no one knows how this preference crept into living systems. In 2012, ESA`s Rosetta lander will land on a comet to investigate, among other things, if the origin of this preference lies in the stars.
Living cells use tiny organic molecules (called amino acids) to build proteins in the same way as children build things out of Lego bricks. Most amino acids come in two mirror-image varieties, right- and left-handed. The arrangement of the thumb and four fingers on a left hand is the mirror image of the arrangement on the right. In amino acids, the arrangement of the atoms determines whether the molecule is left- or right-handed.
Uwe Meierhenrich, at the University of Bremen, Germany, thinks that the Earth`s early supply of amino acids came from space, carried by comets. He is part of a European team who reproduced the way organic molecules form in space, to try to understand what the Rosetta lander might find on Comet Wirtanen in 2012.
Monica Talevi | alfa
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