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Thursday, January 8, 2004

Scientists Discover Part of Pathway to Inorganic DNA Formation

Borax sample.
Borax sample.
Credit: Musée d'histoire naturelle, Fribourg, France
NASA scientists announced today that they have discovered a solution to a problem that has puzzled humans since primitive times: where did life come from? Long seen as a hole in the dominant scientific theory, spontaneous generation, has been the inability to recreate life from inorganic components or even to postulate a feasible route of doing so. In the 1950's, Stanley Miller created amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, by sending electrical sparks similar to lightning through an environment thought to be present on early Earth. His research was unable to create life, probably primarily due to the lack of DNA or RNA to pass on genetic material, the blueprint for life, to such structures.

The problem lies in the fact that the heat required to create proteins destroys sugars, which DNA needs, in a process similar to overcooking something sweet, such as burning brownies. However, NASA's Astrobiology Institute has announced that they have found a way to create sugars in the primeval environment through the presence of a class of compounds, one of which is borax, a substance used in some detergents.

It must be noted that creating life is still an incredibly complex process, and the full method has not been discovered. However, one of the major problems in biology has now apparently been solved, with potentially enormous implications for the discovery of life on other planets.

- posted by Brian @ 20:58 EST