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Nucleobases from Space

July 7, 2008

Key components of DNA and RNA appear to have come to Earth from space.


DNA components from space. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Life on Earth may have been jump-started by a special delivery from outer space. This according to a new report from an international team of scientists. The researchers identified key chemical components of DNA and RNA — components called nucleobases — in a meteorite that landed in Australia in 1969. Lead author Zita Martins of University College London says nucleobases have been found in other meteorites too, but it wasn’t clear how they got there.

ZITA MARTINS (University College London):
Our study really proved that they were, and they are, extraterrestrial.

That’s because they contain a heavy isotope of carbon that forms only in outer space. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that the first building blocks of life came from meteorites and comets: an attractive theory, because the primitive Earth appears unlikely to have formed them spontaneously. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.