Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Shooting stars sugar coated

21.12.2001


The Murray meterorite and others may have seeded life on earth.
© New England Meteoritical Services


Maltose: meteorites contain similar sugars.
© Molecular expressions


Meteorites could have sweetened the earliest life.

Sugar from space may have nourished the first life on Earth. Two meteorites contain a range of polyols, organic substances closely related to sugars such as glucose1.

George Cooper of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California and co-workers have found these compounds in the Murchison meteorite, which fell over the Australian town Murchison in 1969, and in the Murray meteorite, that fell to Kentucky in 1950.



Both of these carbon-rich meteorites are thought to be fragments of asteroids, rubble from the building of our Solar System. The Murchison meteorite has been particularly well studied. That it contains amino acids, the molecular building blocks of proteins, helped to establish that these basic components of life’s molecules can be formed in extraterrestrial environments.

This implied that life on Earth might have been seeded by organic compounds falling from the skies, rather than having started from scratch on the young planet. The meteorites’ sugar molecules hint that another essential building block of life may have come from space.

Sugars form part of the backbone of the molecules DNA and RNA, found in all living organisms. They are also life’s primary energy store. Polyols, close chemical relatives of sugars, are used commercially as sugar-free sweeteners such as sorbitol and mannitol.

Cooper’s team found a wide range of polyols in the two meteorites, and some related molecules called sugar acids. The group also spotted one of the simplest pure sugar molecules, dihydroxyacetone.

Sugars were reported in Murray and other meteorites in the 1960s - including glucose, the main sugar made by plants during photosynthesis. But there was a strong possibility that these compounds might have been incorporated into the meteorites by microbial contamination on Earth.

The compounds seen by Cooper and his colleagues are less likely to be terrestrial contaminants because, in the main, they correspond to substances not found in living organisms. Moreover, the relative abundances of different polyols match what would be produced by chemical rather than biochemical processes.

The researchers think these cosmic sweeteners might have been formed in reactions between formaldehyde and water on the asteroid parent bodies of the meteorites. Formaldehyde, a very simple organic molecule, forms in interstellar space by reactions of still simpler molecules such as carbon monoxide.

The findings therefore support a growing realization that, even in the frozen depths of space, lifeless chemistry can arrange the elements into molecular forms well along the road to primitive life.

References
  1. Cooper, G. et al. Carbonaceous meteorites as a source of sugar-related organic compounds for the early Earth. Nature, 414, 879 - 883, (2001).

PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011220/011220-11.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cells migrate collectively by intermittent bursts of activity
30.09.2016 | Aalto University

nachricht The structure of the BinAB toxin revealed: one small step for Man, a major problem for mosquitoes!
30.09.2016 | CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-Ever 3D Printed Excavator Project Advances Large-Scale Additive Manufacturing R&D

Heavy construction machinery is the focus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s latest advance in additive manufacturing research. With industry partners and university students, ORNL researchers are designing and producing the world’s first 3D printed excavator, a prototype that will leverage large-scale AM technologies and explore the feasibility of printing with metal alloys.

Increasing the size and speed of metal-based 3D printing techniques, using low-cost alloys like steel and aluminum, could create new industrial applications...

Im Focus: New welding process joins dissimilar sheets better

Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of light metals.
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart have now developed two new process variants that will considerably expand the areas of application for friction stir welding.
Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH supports the University of Stuttgart in patenting and marketing its innovations.

Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of...

Im Focus: First quantum photonic circuit with electrically driven light source

Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.

Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Artificial Intelligence Helps in the Discovery of New Materials

With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Paper – Panacea Green Infrastructure?

30.09.2016 | Event News

HLF: From an experiment to an establishment

29.09.2016 | Event News

European Health Forum Gastein 2016 kicks off today

28.09.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

First-Ever 3D Printed Excavator Project Advances Large-Scale Additive Manufacturing R&D

30.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

New Technique for Finding Weakness in Earth’s Crust

30.09.2016 | Earth Sciences

Cells migrate collectively by intermittent bursts of activity

30.09.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>