The origin of life is solved: everyone was right … apparently

18 Mar 2015

A team of scientists is making a rather bold claim of having found evidence of how life on Earth began, with the help of three elements that created the building blocks of life.

For thousands of years, mankind has wondered how we even got here, with dozens of theories circulating, ranging from the religious, to the extra-terrestrial but now, it appears, it is down to the wonders of science.

Publishing its findings in the journal Nature Chemistry, a team from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge in the UK said the three leading theories of how life originated on Earth that fall into a chicken-and-egg scenarios – RNA starting life, metabolism-first and cell membranes as having developed first – could all be right and wrong in different ways.

According to the team’s research, the combination of hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen cyanide and ultraviolet (UV) light all existing at the same time, many of which feature in the three scenarios, have been shown to have created 50 nucleic acids in the team’s labs. These nucleic acids are commonly known to biologists as something which act in the earliest stage prior to the development of DNA and RNA.

Taking the example of a meteorite entering the Earth’s atmosphere, the production of hydrogen cyanide caused by its rapid heating lands in the planet’s vast oceans which, when dissolved, would have reacted with hydrogen sulphide and UV light shining down from the sun which, the scientists said, would be enough to begin the birth of everything.

With scientists now expected to scour through the findings, if proven to be scientifically sound, they could be considered a discovery on a par with naturalist Charles Darwin’s publishing of the theory of evolution.

DNA image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic