Sugar Delivered to Earth from Space

Katie Ramirez
November 22, 2019

NASA Jonson Space Center has provided the team other meteorites and the team will analyze them to see which meteorites contain the sugars and how theses sugars formed.

The lead author behind the newly published study detailing this finding, Yoshihiro Furukawa, explains that "sugars have been a missing piece among the major building blocks of life" when it comes to meteorites.

NASA team discovered the sugars by analyzing powdered samples of the meteorites using gas chromatography mass spectrometry, which sorts and identifies molecules by their mass and electric charge. OSIRIS-REx, which is orbiting the asteroid Bennu, has made several incredible discoveries on the space rock, including the presence of water. The discovery of sugars in meteorites supports the hypothesis that chemical reactions in asteroids - the parent bodies of many meteorites - can make some of life's ingredients.

Ribose plays a hugely important part in our human biology. The team found small amounts of ribose in both meteorites - up to 11 parts per billion in NWA 801 and up to 180 parts per billion in Murchison - plus trace amounts of other sugars, including xylose and arabinose.

'This is important since there could have been a delivery bias of extraterrestrial ribose to the early Earth which is consistent with the hypothesis that RNA evolved first'. "They proved that a component of RNA exists in outer space".

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Scientists from NASA and three Japanese universities have found sugar molecules on two different fallen meteorites, greatly complicating our understanding of the possible origins of life on Earth.

"These results will help guide our analyses of pristine samples from primitive asteroids Ryugu and Bennu, to be returned by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa2 and NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft", he noted. The researchers analyzed characteristics of carbon atoms contained in the ribose, and found that the molecules did not originate on Earth. In much of modern life, RNA serves as a messenger molecule, copying genetic instructions from the DNA molecule and delivering them to molecular factories within the cell called ribosomes that read the RNA to build specific proteins needed to carry out life processes.

The scientists didn't find the sugars that make up DNA, but ribose is a key component to RNA, which may have developed first in evolutionary history.

The study was published November 18 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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