Scientists have discovered a new theory about the origin of life on Earth

Researchers are advancing their understanding of how life may have begun on Earth with an experiment that simulates the formation of complex molecules under conditions similar to those on early Earth. (illustrative image information)

In a pioneering experiment conducted in the early 1950s, A Scientist Tried to recreate the conditions Ancient Earth In a test tube.

Stanley Miller He placed a few simple objects believed to be swirling in the young planet's atmosphere and oceans into interconnected flasks, applied heat to them and electrified them to simulate lightning. The results didn't take long to become popular: this primordial soup evolved Amino acidsChemical Elements of Life.

Discovery began a search within Chemistry And this Biology To develop experiments that help answer one of the biggest scientific questions facing humanity: How did life begin on Earth?

now, Scientists of Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich have given a Exciting forward By demonstrating how complex molecules, vital to life, can be synthesized from basic materials Ancient Earth.

In his study published in the journal NatureThe Scientists They moved the test tubes to small networks of branching cracks similar to those that form naturally in rocks. They made the water flow Through the cracks, along with the major chemical constituents, it then uses up the heat, similar to the process that might occur in porous rocks near hydrothermal vents in the ocean or near a geothermal reservoir.

In geologic networks, heat facilitates the formation of long chains of biopolymers. (US Geological Survey/AP)

They discovered that heat flowing through these geological networks sorts and filters the molecules. Helps form long chains Calls Biopolymers Necessary for life. “This is an amazing demonstration that simple physical processes work to do these things,” he said. Matthew PacekProf Earth Science of University of South Florida Who did not participate in the trial.

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The big question is how life originated Transcending traditional boundaries It divides science into different fields. Chemists, biologists, astrophysicists and geologists all have a seat at the table when it comes to answering the question.

It is interesting to merge those boundaries Christoph MastBiophysicist Ludwig Maximilian University of MunichIts laboratory designed an experimental system that was somewhat close to the conditions under which the “prebiotic chemistry” that led to life took place.

For decades, scientists have grappled with this problem Ancient Earth It is not a primitive laboratory with beakers, well-timed purification steps, and stockpiles of concentrates. It is a matter of recreating the chemistry of life in a laboratoryBut experiments that can be done in a flask may be impossible in the chaotic conditions of the real world.

“You can think of prebiotic earth, this prebiotic soup, it's very diluted, and all these different things are working together in a very uncontrolled way,” he said. Mast.

The experiment uses crack and heat networks to simulate ancient geologic conditions. (Christoph B. Mast)

One of the problems to date is that chemical reactions in the laboratory often produce by-products that can initiate unwanted reactions of their own, leaving scientists with only small amounts of the main material. So how can Ancient Earth Create enough building blocks for life to come?

To try to find out, the researchers cut branching networks of interconnected cracks into small pieces of an inert material. Teflon call FEP and placed it between two plates Nilamani.

The sapphires were brought to precise but different temperatures Create heat flow Through the geologic network between them, heat probably flows Ancient Earth, perhaps near volcanoes or hydrothermal vents. next, Water and basic chemical elements make up the flow He observed what was happening through a network of cracks.

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In a proof-of-concept experiment, they used WisteriaA simple amino acid, with the meaning DMP reacts to link two glycine molecules. These reactions are difficult in waterExplain MastAnd this DMP It was very rare Ancient Earth. According to the researchers, when they mixed these materials without heat in a beaker or geologic fissure, the amount of highly complex biopolymer they created was “significantly small.”

But when They applied a thermal gradient to the cracks, greatly increased the production of biopolymers. This is significant because, however Amino acids They are important, too They are far from life. For example, the same basic elements have been found in non-living meteorites. “To get to the next level, you have to start making polymers: that's a fundamental step to building the next kingdom of life,” he says. Pasek.

Research suggests that different geological environments may have facilitated the creation of life. (REUTERS/Mike Hutchings)

Convenience cannot rule on the ultimate question How life began: Was it in a pool, could it have been on the surface land, or is a hydrothermal vent nearby, such as found in the deep ocean? According to MastHeat flows through rocks can occur in many geologic environments and can be “ubiquitous.” Ancient Earth.

But the experimental system could be used to test other aspects of the planet's ancient chemistry. Mast Next he hopes to create a network of cracks from geologic material, creating larger networks of connected chambers. This study is another reminder that elegant chemical experiments They can ignore one fundamental part of Primal Soup: the pot.

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In 2021, a team Scientists In a famous experiment in the 1950s, the test tube was discovered to be itself – or rather, glass Borosilicate What happened to it – played a role in the results.

When that Scientists They repeated the experiment in a glass jar Teflon Then in one Teflon With a small mirror BorosilicateThey found that Glass was A basic substance for catalyzing reactions.

“In other words, to cook 'main soup', Casserole is key” he wrote in an email Juan Manuel Garcia-RuizResearch Professor at International Physics Center of Donostia, Spain participated in the experiment. He praised the new work for its imaginative approach and, more importantly, for its presence “geologically plausible”.

“It may not be the only mechanism, but it works and it's smart and above all, it's a Test demonstration“, said Garcia-Ruiz. “I think more experimental approaches are needed to explore the geochemical environment of the planet when life was born.”

(c) 2024, The Washington Post

Misty Tate

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