Chemists see first building blocks to life on Earth

nature journal

Scientists at The University of Manchester have developed an experiment that sheds new and fascinating light on how life on Earth might have begun.

Prof John Sutherland, Matthew Powner and Dr Beatrice Gerland from The School of Chemistry have broken new ground by synthesising almost from scratch two of the four building blocks of RNA, which is the self-replicating molecule that many scientists believe could be the original molecule for life.

The researchers believe they have shown how it was possible to make all the building blocks of RNA - which can carry and transmit information from one generation to the next - from the simple chemicals that would have existed on Earth four billion years ago.

At this time, the Earth was like any other lifeless planet that had yet to experience the radical transformation of living and breathing creatures.

Prof Sutherland said: “We have made the building blocks of RNA from what was around on the early Earth and is still around in interstellar space and in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan.

“We haven’t yet made the RNA molecule itself but we’ve made two of the four building blocks. It suggests that making the molecule is possible.”

The findings are published in the latest edition of the leading science journal Nature.

Provided by University of Manchester

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Citation: Chemists see first building blocks to life on Earth (2009, May 13) retrieved 19 October 2019 from
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May 13, 2009
of course the final breakthrough would be if they could get RNA to form in an experiment. but even then I doubt the guy above me would have the 'intelligence' to stfu.

May 13, 2009
My only question is, does new life form regularly? If so, we should be able to find it. If not, why not?

May 13, 2009
I think the reaction as described in the article is not anymore happening at earth like it once was. And the reason is that current life here has changed the world to be a very different from what it was. Our world is not anymore an oxygen deprived place where ammonia and cyanide are abundant.

May 13, 2009

That is not addressed by the article (or by science itself, for that matter.) One can certainly imagine that some intelligence placed a simple sugar molecule next to a cyanmide molecule and some phosphate, but one can also imagine these relatively simple molecules forming (and bumping into each other) randomly. The "intelligence" is purely optional, and a matter of personal religious choice.

May 14, 2009
The problem with requiring intelligence is then you have to explain how that came to exist.

May 14, 2009
Another important step forward. I'll look for the whole article and read it with pleasure.

May 14, 2009
Can these simple molecles form in a wide variety of temperatures? If they are stable at relatively high temperatures, life could have formed near an oceanic geothermal vent (which would have been plentiful when the Earth was young).

May 14, 2009
Dumb questions, but does the article say that they duplicated the process in a lab environment, or just that they theorized the process to be possible.

The part that says:

"Their lab model uses starting materials and environmental conditions that are believed to have been around in early Earth"


"The presence of phosphate and ultraviolet light from the Sun complete the synthesis."

are a bit confusing. I might be mistaking the definition of lab model I'm sure, but if they have the theoreticals down, why would they not be able to replicate this in an experiment, or does the article say they have done that?


May 14, 2009

Yep! Because intelligence = religion
Following this simple reasoning it then follows that...
Complete lack of intelligence = science

I crack myself up! ;-)

May 14, 2009

I agree. Chemistry is an empirical science. Using theory in the article doesn't make any sense at all. Did they run the chemical process and get RNA or not?

Additionally, you have to give a mechanism for how you have glycolaldehyde lying around in the same conditions. Otherwise you're impersonating Kipling and his Just So stories.

May 21, 2009
Updated Life's Manifest May 2009

Recapitulation of some earlier notes on the
Scientific Comprehension Of The Origin, Drive, Nature And Purpose Of Life

A. Uniqueness Of science among human artifacts

ALL aspects of our culture are, of course, anthropoartifacts, including science. Yet among those artifacts science has a distinct uniqueness for us.

During the recent several centuries in the course of human history humans have been developing science at an accelerating rate as a provider of convincing, ever closer approaching, approximate models of the real world.

B. Origin and nature of life

Astronomically there are two "physics", a "classical physics" system of and between galactic clusters, and a "quantum physics" system WITHIN the galactic clusters.

The onset of big-bang's inflation started gravity, followed by formation of galactic clusters that behave as Newtonian bodies while continuously reconverting their shares of pre-inflation masses back to energy, and of endless intertwined evolutions WITHIN the clusters in attempts to resist this reconversion.

As mass is just another face of energy it is commonsensible to regard not only life, but mass in general, as a format of temporarily constrained energy.

It therefore ensues that whereas the in-space expanding cosmic constructs, the galaxies clusters, are - overall - continuously converting their original pre-inflation mass back to energy, the overall evolution WITHIN them, within the clusters, is in the opposite direction, temporarily constrained energy packages such as black holes and biospheres and other energy-storing mass-formats are precariuosly forming and "doing best" to survive as long as "possible"...

C. The drive and nature of Earth life

Earth life Genesis, formation of the first genes, was a phenomenon of serendipitous occurrence, in a supportive environment, of 'favourably-coursed' energy potential between in-coming sun's radiation and polymerizing-precipitating RNA-related oligomeric configuration.

The drive of Earth life and of its evolution is to enhance the functionality and survivability of Earth's genes, in order to maintain and enhance Earth-biosphere's temporary constrained energy storage and to maintain the biosphere BIO as long as possible.

It is the genes, life's prime strata organisms, that evolve, and the evolution of genomes, the 2nd stratum of life, and of the 3rd life stratum cellular organisms, is an interenhancing consequence of their genes' evolution.

D. The formation of Earth life

Earth Life: 1. a format of temporarily constrained energy, retained in temporary constrained genetic energy packages in forms of genes, genomes and organisms 2. a real virtual affair that pops in and out of existence in its matrix, which is the energy constrained in Earth's biosphere.

Earth organism: a temporary self-replicable constrained-energy genetic system that supports and maintains Earth's biosphere by proliferating and maintenance of genes.

Gene: the primal Earth's organism. (1st stratum organism)

Genome: a multigenes organism consisting of a cooperative commune of its member genes. (2nd stratum organism)

Cellular organisms: mono- or multi-celled Earth organisms. (3rd stratum organism)

E. Update of underlying life sciences conception is thus feasible

- First were independent individual genes, Earth's primal organisms.

- Genes aggregated cooperatively into genomes, multigenes organisms, with genomes' organs.

- Simultaneously or consequently genomes evolved protective-functional membranes, organs.

- Then followed cellular organisms, with a variety of outer-cell membrane shapes and

This conception is a scientific, NOT TECHNICAL, life-science innovation.

It is tomorrow's comprehension of life and of its evolution.



F. The purpose of OUR, human, life

The purpose of OUR life and of its promotion is ours to formulate and set. It derives solely from our cognition.


Dov Henis
(Comments from 22nd century)

Updated Life's Manifest May 2009

EVOLUTION Beyond Darwin 200

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