More DNA Building Bits Found in Meteorites, Supporting the Unconventional Hypothesis of Life on Earth

Sandy Casariego
A fragment of the Tagish Lake meteorite, which is preserved in its frozen state, harbors key types of RNA and DNA components.Photo byNASA

We are all composed of star dust, or perhaps more precisely, of star dust that came to Earth as a meteorite after traveling on an asteroid.

The more closely we examine those rocks, the more plausible it seems that the building blocks of life arrived on Earth by way of space rocks. Utilizing cutting-edge, ultra-high-resolution tools, researchers have located crucial DNA and RNA building pieces in meteorites, including ones that were absent from earlier examinations.

Their discovery strengthens the panspermia idea, which contends that life, or its constituent parts, may be floating throughout space, waiting to make an effect on a planet with the proper circumstances to enable it to, well, spring to life. Panspermia was once thought to be a ridiculous theory, but the more we study samples from space, the less absurd it looks.

The journal Nature Communications published a research this week summarizing the conclusions.

Five chemical molecules make up DNA and RNA, the genetic building blocks of life as we know it. Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine, Thymine, and Uracil are their names. These molecules can be divided into two groups of substances known as nucleobases.

There are purines, on the one hand. Guanine and adenine are among the chemical compounds in this group that have been discovered in meteorites that have struck our planet. Yet, Pyrimidines, a different type of nucleobase with a larger and more complex structure, are necessary for the formation of DNA and RNA and, by extension, for the development of life. Thymine, uracil, and cytosine fall within this category.

Pyrimidines had never before been discovered in substantial quantities in meteorite samples.

The most advanced high-resolution mass spectroscopy technology and analytical methods were employed by a team led by Yasuhiro Oba of Japan's Hokkaido University to find minute amounts of nucleobases in samples from three separate carbon-rich meteorites. Many pyrimidine nucleobases that had been curiously absent in earlier investigations could now be located.

According to a statement from Oba and colleagues, "These substances are present at amounts similar to those expected by experiments reproducing conditions which existed before to the formation of the solar system."

Because of this, these recent data strikingly corroborate the panspermia theory, which was previously disproved. Also, when researchers are able to study samples collected from the significant asteroids Ryugu and Bennu by spacecraft created by Japan's space agency JAXA and NASA, respectively, further proof may be forthcoming.

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