Toffee found in meteorite?

The origin of life on Earth would have been greatly accelerated had some of the compounds used in constructing complex bio-molecules simply rained onto the young planet from outer space.  Carbonaceous chondrite meteorites are known to contain a tremendous blend of many possible precursors, ranging from amino acids to the ampiphile molecules, whose curling-up in the presence of liquid water is seen by many cosmo-biologists as a route to the formation of cell walls.  The latest addition to possible ingredients are sugars and related compounds in the two most important such meteorites, Murchison and Murray (Cooper et al. 2001.  Carbonaceous meteorites as a source for sugar-related compounds for the early Earth.  Nature, v. 414, p. 879-883).  Detection of simpler carbon-based molecules in the spectra of interstellar molecular clouds, from which the Solar System probably accreted, suggests that a complex chain of photochemical reactions followed by thermochemistry as the pre-solar nebula became denser was the route to seeding the vicinity of the Earth with biological potential.  However, the next steps ending in chemical self-replication and its RNA/DNA control remain a great deal more mysterious than detection of suitable reagents.  For one thing, all life-molecules rotate polarized light in only one direction (anti-clockwise), whereas those of abiogenic origin, such as the compounds found in meteorites, rotate it both ways in roughly equal proportions.

See also:  Sephton, M.A. 2001.  Life’s sweet beginnngs.  Nature, v. 414, p. 857-858.

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