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Fascinating New Research Focuses on Origins of Life

Fascinating New Research Focuses on Origins of Life

New research suggests a crucial step for the emergence of life can occur even in the very inhospitable conditions of space.

There has been some fascinating new research focused on the origins of life. Intriguingly, a large part of its focus looks at the conditions of early Earth as well as space, to determine if building blocks of life were originally extraterrestrial.

Two dozen geologists, microbiologists, and other scientists will sail in April to the Atlantis Massif, a 14,000-foot underwater mountain rising from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.

Adjacent to the mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Atlantis Massif is a tectonic window, where the tectonic plates spread apart and pull the earth’s deeper layers to the surface. By drilling at tectonic windows, scientists can examine parts of the earth’s inner structure that would otherwise be inaccessible.

“It’s almost a way of cheating the system,” said Jason Sylvan, a biological oceanographer at Texas A&M University.

Researchers plan to take samples from the new depths to investigate whether a special mix of rock and water could have spawned life on Earth and possibly other planets.

Another team of researchers led by Michel Farizon of the University of Lyon and Tilmann Märk of the University of Innsbruck has now made a significant discovery related to the smallest occurring amino acid, glycine, a molecule that has been observed several times extraterrestrially in recent years.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins in all lifeforms. One of the prerequisites for the emergence of life is the abiotic (i.e., not caused by living beings) chemical production and polymerization of amino acids.

“Our study sheds light on the less likely unimolecular scenario for the formation of such amino acid chains in the extreme conditions of space,” says Michel Farizon. “We were able to show that peptide chain growth occurs through unimolecular reactions in excited cluster ions, without the need for contact with an additional partner such as dust or ice.”

The current work provides evidence that the first step toward the origin of life can occur in the highly unlikely conditions of space. “The study is an important milestone on the route to understanding the origins of life. The results will serve as a basis for further research in this field,” Michel Farizon and Tilmann Märk are convinced.

Dustin Trail, an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Rochester in New York, and Thomas McCollom, a research associate at the University of Colorado Boulder, recently published a paper in Science that suggests there is a link between certain metals and the emergence of chemicals associated with life.

The pair focused on the possible composition of the early Earth, which would be substantially different than it is today.

Many origin-of-life researchers, for instance, consider copper a likely component in the chemistry that could have led to life. But Trail and McCollom did not find evidence that copper would have been abundant under the constraints in their analysis.

One metal they did test that may have been available in high concentrations was manganese. While it is rarely considered in origin-of-life scenarios, today manganese helps the body form bones and assists enzymes in breaking down carbohydrates and cholesterol.

“Our research shows that metals like manganese may function as important links between the ‘solid’ Earth and emerging biological systems at Earth’s surface,” Trail says.

Trail says the research will help scientists studying the origin of life to input more concrete data into their experiments and models.

“Experiments designed with this information in mind will result in a better understanding of how life originated.”

For those of you who enjoy science, here is an interesting review of early Earth and early life co-evolution.


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JackinSilverSpring | February 26, 2023 at 2:23 pm

Origin of life from non-life is not explicable by any process we know of. Not only is protein folding needed, but protein the right way (left-handed) and the proteins have to fit together. Moreover, there needs to be a code within the DNA to direct activity within the cell, and there must be repair mechanisms in the cell to make sure that the cell does not degrade, and there must be enzymes within the cell

    JackinSilverSpring in reply to JackinSilverSpring. | February 26, 2023 at 2:28 pm

    that cannot exist until the cell exists. Finally, prior to the cell’s springing into life, the non-life precursor is subject to the second law of thermodynamics, which is the law of entropy. The precursors will become disordered long before they can magically come together to form a living cell.

      healthguyfsu in reply to JackinSilverSpring. | February 26, 2023 at 3:51 pm

      Entropy is a limited concept at the molecular level. There is always some cohesiveness,..otherwise, all atoms would eventually degrade to Hydrogen.

      Also, some of these are a bit incorrect. Amino acids can be formed in a reaction vessel with just applied voltage to an aqueous solution containing the right elements in dissolved gas form. Also, lipid bilayers (the key structural component of the cell membrane) forms spontaneously in an aqueous solution.,synthesized%20under%20early%20earth%20conditions.

      The theory goes that first came life in a protein-based form THEN came life encoded by nucleic acids which added complexity and longevity.

      It’s fairly accepted that life COULD have come from cosmic components (just as it COULD have come from directed intelligent design). The only remaining question is did either actually happen in the history of our universe.

        JackinSilverSpring in reply to healthguyfsu. | February 26, 2023 at 9:45 pm

        I suggest you try putting proteins in some medium that is protein friendly. Let me know how long they last. They will degrade long before they do anything else.

      I’d take intelligent design advocates a lot more seriously if they didn’t keep recycling the same tired old misunderstangings of microbiology over and over again, no matter how many times they’ve been told that’s not how microbiology works.

      It’s no different from trans activists constantly repeating the same made-up studies about brain chemistry no matter how many times they’ve been shown the studies don’t exist.

      It is truly fascinating how little we know of the actual origins of biotic life. There may be one day when we have 3D molecular printers, and can literally build an entire cell atom by atom, but until then, it is a fascinating mystery. My bet is that life as we know it, in the oceans, the land, and the air, is so far away from the actual origins of “extremophile” life in volcanic vents and such, that our attempts to generate it within the confines of what we consider “normal” are doomed to failure.

        can literally build an entire cell atom by atom
        And even then we might not know how life originated (from a purely materialistic viewpoint).

        The humility you demonstrate is the proper approach to science.

    The origin of DNA is more significant because it is Darwin’s irreducibly complex boogy man.

      alaskabob in reply to MattMusson. | February 26, 2023 at 5:39 pm

      A major duality…. the internal cells building blocks need a encapsulating membrane for protection but the membrane needs the building blocks. Chicken and egg happen simultaneously? As science (real) studies nature it becomes increasingly more complex and each layer adds additional required “time” to the evolutionary clock model. Darwin is running out of time.

    BierceAmbrose in reply to JackinSilverSpring. | February 26, 2023 at 6:59 pm

    “…protein the right way (left-handed)…”

    Right or left doesn’t matter; rather, that it be the version that fits its surroundings.

    If you want to argue improbability, go for water which gets weirder the more people look into it.

    The year before last, some boffins deduced there are layers of organized molecules like a kind of squishy ice at diffusion boundaries in liquid water. Last year, some other boffins described a novel organization of solid ice, which they can produce on demand.

    They are numbering the ice variations they find. The need to stop before they get to 9.

    ast year some boffins reported producing another form of ice.

      JackinSilverSpring in reply to BierceAmbrose. | February 26, 2023 at 9:50 pm

      The improbability is that all the things have to come together at just the right time. But if they do somehow maically do, where does the code found in DNA come from? An ordered code does not arise from a jumble of random elements.

        BierceAmbrose in reply to JackinSilverSpring. | February 27, 2023 at 5:51 pm

        I get the argument. It’s also specious. Everything we’re likely to encounter fits with life as we know it — or we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t know about other trials that don’t work.

        I know about this. We super-intelligent shades of blue are for somewhere else, where things played out differently. No DNA, for example.

It’s impossible to trust anything coming out of an American university anymore: you just know that somehow this “discovery” will be spun into somehting benefiting the leftist facists.

    JohnSmith100 in reply to | February 26, 2023 at 6:17 pm

    That may be true, but it is well established that building blocks of life probably came from space. This is refining that. It is also interesting that star formation has evolved as a result of remnants of earlier starts life and death, and that carbon based life is also a byproduct of this.

It’s unclear if the question as proposed even has a meaningful answer, given that if you go back far enough, everything on earth was at some point extraterrestrial.

Rock and water are the traditional ingredients of stone soup.

    I got a chuckle out of that

      rhhardin in reply to Skip. | February 26, 2023 at 6:40 pm

      It has a classical origin in argument. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, mocking Hartley’s explanation of life, as it happens, in fact an absurdly relevant connection:

      But it may be said, that by the sensations from the objects A and M, the nerves have acquired a disposition to the vibrations a and m, and therefore a need only be repeated in order to re-produce m. Now we will grant, for a moment, the possibility of such a disposition in a material nerve, which yet seems scarcely less absurd than to say, that a weather-cock had acquired a habit of turning to the east, from the wind having been so long in that quarter: for if it be replied, that we must take in the circumstance of life, what then becomes of the mechanical philosophy? And what is the nerve, but the flint which the wag placed in the pot as the first ingredient of his stone broth, requiring only salt, turnips, and mutton, for the remainder! But if we waive this, and pre-suppose the actual existence of such a disposition; two cases are possible. Either, every idea has its own nerve and correspondent oscillation, or this is not the case. If the latter be the truth, we should gain nothing by these dispositions; for then, every nerve having several dispositions, when the motion of any other nerve is propagated into it, there will be no ground or cause present, why exactly the oscillation m should arise, rather than any other to which it was equally pre-disposed. But if we take the former, and let every idea have a nerve of its own, then every nerve must be capable of propagating its motion into many other nerves; and again, there is no reason assignable, why the vibration m should arise, rather than any other ad libitum.

Yawn. Yet more effort spent trying to prove the Darwin origin myth. Next up Greco-Roman origin science.

Or you could just accept science 101.

I donno….

Tell you what: I’m gonna run this by Fetterman – if he’s still alive. Or maybe his wife, who dumped him in a meatwagon and then went on vacation….

    That is an interesting question or two….. I think Fetterman has made FJB look functional. Is Fetterman the new Francisco Franco? We have two unfortunate examples of how far the Left is willing to go to “win” and how disingenuous politics has become at the expense of everyday people.

We are also caught in the Big Bang theory…. but where did the original Bit come to go bang? Was this an unstable singularity of a larger black hole that went boom and sheared away from that time-space continuum? Or..the Bit just happened…..

Oh, and God called. He said “Get your own dirt!”