Life on Earth appeared relatively quickly after it was formed. However, this does not change the fact that before this happened, the Earth was just a very young, cooling rock with no life on it. For years, scientists have tried to recreate the sequence of events that led to the formation of the first living organism.
It is extremely important to understand the processes that led to the formation of the first living organisms. Not only would we know the sequence of events that started billions of years of evolution from single-celled organisms to the creation of man and ourselves. In addition, we could finally even assess the chance that life also arose elsewhere in the universe.
The problem, however, is that the process of creating the first life left no trace in the fossil record, so based on our knowledge of what the chemistry of the Earth and atmosphere looked like when life arose, scientists try to recreate the sequence of chemical reactions that at a accident could lead to the formation of the first living organisms 3.7 billion years ago.
One of the most important chemical compounds that has been suspected for many years of being instrumental in the formation of life is cyanide.
This compound significantly facilitates the formation of basic organic compounds at room temperature and in a wide range of pH parameters.
It should therefore come as no surprise that the researchers decided to see if they could create amino acids, which are already more complex organic compounds that all the proteins in living organisms are made of.
Today, amino acids are made from alpha-keto acids that react with nitrogen and enzymes. The problem is that while alpha-keto acids probably existed 3.7 billion years ago, the enzymes were gone.
Scientists set out to see how amino acids could be made without alpha-keto acid enzymes. Given the above information, cyanide was added to the alpha-keto acids followed by ammonia, which could potentially be a source of nitrogen. However, mixing the three ingredients had no effect.
Carbon dioxide was then added to the mixture.
It changed everything. It turns out that by adding even a little carbon dioxide to such a mixture, chemical reactions begin to take place much faster.
The conclusions are obvious. Carbon dioxide, with an excess of it in the atmosphere today, we have so many problems, could have been one of the main ingredients responsible for the emergence of life on Earth. Interestingly, in the course of the research, it turned out that the by-product of all these reactions is a chemical compound similar to orothonates formed in living organisms, which in turn is one of the building blocks of nucleic acids.
It is therefore possible that the researchers at the Scripps Research Institute, led by the chemist Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, have just taken a very big step towards understanding the processes that started life on our planet.
How did life originate on Earth? Scientists are getting closer to answering this question