Ribose in RNA can arise in comets and that could throw light on life beyond this EarthCristina Cantor (Author) Published Date : Apr 11, 2016 16:39 IST
A new research has pointed to the sugar ribose or the R in RNA that is abundantly found in asteroids and comets that zip through our solar systems may be present throughout the universe in larger quantities than what has been thought previously.
This new finding is important not only for studying the origin of life on the Earth, but also gain an understanding of the quantum of life that lies beyond our planet. Scientists are already aware of several molecules needed to sustain life including nucleobases, amino acids, and others being made from the interaction of space radiation and cometary ices. But the R or ribose that is pivotal to the RNA molecule had remained elusive for long.
The researchers have published their report in Science on Thursday filling another piece of this puzzle, according to Andrew Mattioda, astrochemist from NASA s Ames Research Centre, though he was no part of the study. He added further that if all molecules essential to sustain life are present in the outer space, the case to find life outside our planets gains further strength.
RNA stands for ribonucleic acid and is among the three macromolecules essential to sustain all life forms on the Earth with proteins and DNA making up the other two.
Many scientists also hold the view that RNA is more ancient compared to DNA and RNA came to the scene much before DNA. However, Ribose, which is a key component in RNA forms only under specific conditions and according to scientists, those conditions were absent on our planet before life started evolving. Therefore, the question remains as to the origin of the first strands of RNA.
A research team recreated conditions of the solar system as it existed in the early days in a French lab to examine whether comets and asteroids could have delivered the molecules to Earth and if ribose could be easily made in the outer space.
The researchers started with methanol, water, and ammonia since there was an abundant supply of these molecules in the protoplanetary disk which formed around the sun at the start of the solar system. The abundance of gas clouds across the universe was also considered by the researchers. These molecules were placed in a vacuum and cooled to 80 degrees cryogenic temperature translating to minus 328 degrees Fahrenheit.
The ices resulting from the experiment were then brought to room temperature by heating leading to sublimation of the volatile molecules leaving only a thin film.
Ribose in RNA can arise in comets and that could throw light on life beyond this Earth